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NO 22 



i. Reynold A. Nicholson: RUM!: POET AND MYSTIC 
2. A. J. Arberry: SUFISM 



5. E. Allison Peers: THE MYSTICS OF SPAIN 
6. Dastur Bode and Piloo Nanavutty : SONGS OF ZARATHUSTRA 



9. A. J. Arberry: THE HOLY KORAN 

10. A. H. Armstrong: PLOTINUS 




1 6. Kaizuka: CONFUCIUS 

1 8. W. G. Archer: THE LOVES OF KRISHNA 

19. Kdtib Chelebi: THE BALANCE OF TRUTH 







First published in 1959 

This book is copyright under the Berne Convention. 
Apart from any fair dealing for the purposes of 
private study, research, criticism or review, as 
permitted under the Copyright Act, 1956, no 
portion may be reproduced by any process without 
written permission. Enquiry should be made to 
the publisher. 

Printed in Great Britain 
in 1 1 on 12 pt. BaskeniUe type 

by C. Tinline & Co. Ltd. 
Liverpool, London and Prescot. 


Ibn 'Arabi is possibly the most significant thinker of 
Islam. Yet he is far less widely known in the Western 
world than Ibn Sina, Al-Ghazall, Ibn Rushd or even 
Al-Farabi. By and large, the legend of his pantheism 
and his obscurity persists in a world little aware of what 
he actually wrote and taught. The late R. A. Nicholson 
and Dr. A. E. Affifi are the English-speaking world's 
chief contribution to Ibn * Arab! studies. The present 
essay attempts to fill, however inadequately, the gap 
that remains. It touches only upon some of the main 
ideas in Ibn 'Arabi's vast and complex system, and 
ignores innumerable other aspects. Apart from my own 
interpretations and illustrations of some of Ibn 'Arabi's 
puzzling ideas, I do not claim any special originality for 
this study. I hope, nevertheless, that even so concise 
an introduction to him might offer some notion of his 
philosophy, and induce the reader to seek out the orig- 
inal sources. For the sake of those unable to read Ibn 
*ArabI in the original, I have included a number 'of 
his texts in English. 

Apart from Ibn c Arabi's own writings, especially the 
Fusus and the Futuhdt, the chief authorities on whom I 
have based my text are Miguel Asin y Palacios, R, A. 
Nicholson, and, especially, Dr. Affifi, whose book, 
The Mystical Philosophy of Myhyid Din-Ibnul 'Arabi 
(Cambridge University Press, 1939) might well claim 
to be the clearest survey in English of a difficult but 
fascinating subject. 


Professor of Islamic* , 
North African Studies, 
College of the Pacific, 


I wish to express my gratitude to the following 
publishers for giving me permission to use translations 
of Ibn 'Arab! texts : the University Press Cambridge 
(Studies in Islamic Mysticism, by Reynold Alleyne 
Nicholson, publ. 1921), the Royal Asiatic Society, 
London (Tarjumdnu 'l-Ashwdq, by Reynold A. 
Nicholson, publ. 1911), and Messrs Luzac & Co. 
London (Readings from the Mystics of Islam, publ. 
1950). I also have to thank the Editors of The Muslim 
World, Hartford Seminary Foundation, Hartford, 
Conn, for allowing me to use material contained in 
my The Philosophy of Ibn *Arabi, published in January 
and April 1957 in their Quarterly. 





I The Life of Ibn *Arabi 15 

II Ibn * Arabi and Islamic Philosophy 17 

III The Nature of Ibn * Arab? s Doctrine 22 

IV Themes on Ibn * Arabfs Philosophy 27 
V Ibn 'Arabfs Texts 67 


A Selection from Tarjumdnu al-Ashwdq 91 

INDEX 123 




Abu Bakr Muhammad ibn c All Muhyi al-Din al-Hatimi 
al Andalus!, commonly known as Ibn 'Arab! (or 
Ibnul e Arabi), came from a pious family in which Sufi 
interests were a tradition. His ancestors belonged to the 
Arab tribe of Tayy. At some time or another they moved 
from the Middle East to Southern Spain which, from 
the beginning of the 8th century, had been ruled by 
Arabian princes. By A.D. 1164, when Ibn 'Arab! was 
born in Murcia, in South-Eastern Spain, Muslim 
dominance in the Iberian peninsula had passed its peak 
and, indeed, was declining towards extinction. But 
Spanish intellectual life was still illumined by the after- 
glow of Moorish civilization. During the preceding 
three centuries, the intellectual zest and material 
splendour of Cordova and Seville surpassed those of 
Paris and possibly even of Constantinople. The Muslims 
of Spain had transmitted to Europe much of the wisdom 
of the Greeks; and with their co-religionists in Syria, 
Persia and Iraq had produced a corpus of philosophical 
and scientific knowledge that was to leave a deeper 
imprint upon European civilization than any other 
foreign culture, before or since. 

At the beginning of the I2th century, an Arab youth 
in Andalusia had practically the whole of the then 
available knowledge spread before him in the schools 
and libraries of Southern Spain. Zoroastrian and 
Manichaean lore, Hebrew and Christian theology, 
Greek philosophy and mathematics, and every kind of 


Muslim intellectual achievement were by then for- 
mulated in manuscript, and there was no dearth of 
scholars to expound. It seems that Ibn ' Arabi, with his 
exceptional spiritual curiosity grasped every oppor- 
tunity to profit from all available sources. At the age of 
eight he was in Lisbon where he received the rudiments 
of Muslim orthodox education. Besides learning the 
Qur'an, he studied the principles of Islamic law. A few 
years later we find him in Seville, since 1 1 70 the capital 
of the Moorish Empire of the Almohades. He remained 
there for some thirty years, continually employed in the 
study of the various branches of Islamic learning. 
During that time he also travelled extensively in both 
Spain and Morocco, and, in 1201, decided to make the 
pilgrimage to Mecca. He may have sought thus to 
escape from the simmering political upheavals in Spain 
and from the vigilant eyes of the learned ulema, who 
would look askance at a Sufi scholar of distinctly un- 
orthodox views. In the East, he visited not only Mecca, 
where he lived and taught for a while, but also Syria, Iraq 
and Asia Minor. By that time, his saintly life and his 
impressive record as a teacher and thinker had earned him 
great renown. Wherever he went, gifts were bestowed 
upon him, which later he passed on to the poor. 

It was during his sojourn in Mecca and Damascus 
that Ibn 'Arabi wrote most of his books, especially the 
fundamental Fususu 'l-Hikam, known in English as either 
Gems of Philosophy or The Bezels of Divine Wisdom, and Al 
Futuhdt al-Makkiyyah (Meccan Revelations). We have no 
exact knowledge of the number of books he wrote. He 
himself mentions almost three hundred. These comprise 
theology, mysticism, biography, philosophy, Quranic 
commentaries, and poetry. Ibn 'Arab! died in 1240 in 
Damascus, where his grave can be seen to the present 




THE central problem facing the Muslim philosophers 
was how to reconcile a God of absolute unity and 
perfection with the creation of a multiple universe full 
of imperfections. If God's will was responsible for the 
creation of the world, then we are confronted with the 
problem of the duality of God and His will. The same 
problem arises in regard to Divine mercy, charity, 
justice and the other attributes of God. Then there was 
the problem how the postulate of God's unity could 
be preserved in view of the fact that some 'part* of Him 
became the universe. Prior to the creation of the latter 
there was nothing beside God. So obviously the universe 
must be a 'fragment' of God's being, taken out of 
eternity and placed into time. Since God is eternal and 
spiritual, He must be beyond time, space and matter. 
Yet what distinguishes His universe from Himself is 
precisely its material existence in time and space. 
Whence did these come, with all their multiplicity and 
imperfections ? 

These problems had worried not merely the Muslim 
philosophers but also their antecedents and masters, 
the Greeks, from Aristotle down to Philo, Plotinus and 
Origen. Though the Muslims accepted many of the 
Aristotelian and Neo-platonic postulates, they did not 
develop them merely as Muslim interpretations. Each 
thinker attempted clarification in his own individual 
way. Hardly any two of them re-expressed the doctrine 
of the Nous or of the Logos in identical manner, each 
B 17 

seeking a formula that would, to his mind, satisfy the 
demands of logic and yet not contravene the doctrines 
of the Qur'an. Their interpretations ranged from the 
rationalism of the Mu'tazilah to the intellectual sterility 
of the Ash'arites; from unredeemed anthropomor- 
phism to the complex doctrine of world spirits as postu- 
lated by Ibn Sina; from Al-Farabi's veneration of 
Aristotelian mathematics and astronomy to Al-Ghazali's 
revolt against both the Greeks and philosophy sui generis. 
Some of the schemes devised by the Muslim philoso- 
phers are eminently satisfying to the demands of logic. 
They have the beauty of true works of art. By inter- 
posing an active 'agent' between God and His creation 
whether called Universal Reason or First Cause, 
Logos or Universal Spirit they relieved God of all 
responsibility for the existence of such troublesome 
entities as time, space, multiplicity, and so on. But when, 
at the beginning of the I2th century, Al-Ghazali wrote 
his Tahdfut al-Falasifah he showed that his predecessors, 
despite the apparent impeccability of their reasoning, 
had shirked the central issue. Their solutions had been 
essentially linguistic ones. By substituting the term 
Divine 'knowledge' for Divine 'will', and the Neo- 
platonic 'necessity' for 'creation', they imagined them- 
selves to have overcome all the difficulties. They had 
made the universe finite in space and infinite in dura- 
tion; they had limited God (or, rather, the First Cause) 
to dealing only with universals and not with particulars; 
they had attributed to everything an eternal potential 
existence (in the mind of God) and had thus eliminated 
the 'possibility' of anything new being created by God, 
for such new creation would have removed God from 
eternity and placed Him in time. Not so, insisted Al- 
Ghazall, opposing such mental acrobatics. Even God's 
thinking must be the outcome of His will. Since He 


knows everything He must be concerned not only with 
universals but also with particulars. How, he challenged 
his predecessors, could we conceive of a finite space and 
an infinite time ? Does not infinite time presuppose also 
infinite space? R not space related to body, and time to 
the body's movement? And, Al-Ghazall, a more 
orthodox Muslim than they, protested that not only the 
soul, as the philosophers said, but also the body is 
immortal. Though the great Ibn Rushd wrote his 
scathing Tahdfut al-Tahafut against Al-Ghazali, and 
used every weapon of Aristotelian logic against him, 
he did not really invalidate Al-Ghazali's arguments. 
But the verbal ingenuities he employed proved suffi- 
ciently persuasive to influence Western scholastics for 
several centuries. 

The Muslim philosophers accomplished their tasks 
efficiently. Their efforts compare by no means un- 
favourably with those of some of their great successors, 
such as Descartes, Kant or Leibniz. Kant's Das Ding an 
sich added little to the shay* (thing) of the Muslims; and 
the monad of Leibniz can hardly claim superiority over 
its cousin, the atom of Muslim atomists. It must, how- 
ever, be conceded that the Muslim philosophers failed to 
resolve the fundamental conflict between the Qur'an 
and its rational justification, just as the Western schol- 
astics failed to solve the corresponding conflict in the 
Christian doctrine. The fault^ however, was not theirs. 
It was inherent in the conflict itself. The fundamental 
truths of the Qur'an, in common with those of all 
genuine religions, are spiritual truths. Their postulates 
and their 'logic' must needs differ from those that have 
formed the basis of Western philosophical (and 
scientific) pursuits ever since Aristotle. It may be that 
the truths of science and of rationalism in general pose 
no insoluble riddles to Aristotelian logic, though it 

would appear that modern atomic science and mathe- 
matics are beginning to find them insufficient. In 
dealing, however, with dimensions of truth in which 
matter (and substance) are not the one and all, we find 
that particular logic of little assistance. Whether we 
accept or dismiss the truths of mysticism, we all agree 
that those truths cannot be 'proved' by a logic derived 
essentially from Aristotle. Such logic bases itself on a 
quantitative universe in which substance, whether in 
the sense of materiaprima or materia secunda is the decisive 
reality of existence. By disregarding quality which it 
attempts to define in terms of quantity it takes little 
heed of essence. The underlying forces behind the 
universe the instruments of the First Cause, or God, or 
whatever we wish to call it are, however, timeless and 
spaceless essence. Quantity does not enter therein, 
even though it may become a vehicle. Thus, in trying to 
explain essence in terms of substance the common 
technique of most Western philosophy we attempt to 
explain one dimension by another one. 

The problems awaiting solution by the Muslim 
philosophers were beyond the power of the Aristotelian 
logic that most of them accepted. Evidently a less 
circumscribed, a more 'spiritual', instrument was 
needed. The mystics alone appear to have possessed 
such an instrument, which we might describe as vision 
a direct awareness of Reality, unencumbered by 
intellectual interference. Though it might not be im- 
possible to arrive at similar truths by intellectual means, 
such findings will be only accidental, and they will have 
been gained at second hand. While they reach us after 
having been distilled through, or reflected in, our 
intellect, the truths obtained by direct vision are an 
immediate and spontaneous experience. We might 
liken them to light reaching us direct from the sun as 


compared with light depicted in an artist's painting. 
(Since the great artist, somewhat like the mystic, sees 
truth directly, his representation of truth will be more 
concrete than that of the scientist.) 



THE truths expressed in the philosophy of Ibn 'Arab! 
are those of a seer and a mystic, not of a philosopher, 
even though he did his best to explain them through a 
philosophical system. His uniqueness derives precisely 
from the fact that he was both a seer who often saw 
more clearly and more deeply even than other mystics 
and at the same time possessed the equipment of a 
philosopher, however unorthodox and even fantastic 
that equipment appears at times to have been. 

Though the core of his doctrine and many of its 
details are Ibn 'Arabi's own, his vast reading and his 
catholicity enabled him to utilize innumerable extran- 
eous sources. Of the purely native, or Spanish sources, 
most prominent were those of the Sufis of Al-Meria, 
whose doctrines spread through most of Muslim Spain. 
In his book on our philosopher, however, Dr A. E. 
Affifi shows that the influence of the Spanish Sufi, Ibn 
Masarra, and his schools, affected Ibn 'Arab! far less 
than was assumed by the great Spanish expert, Miguel 
Asin y Palacios. The Qur'an and Hadith form the chief 
basis upon which Ibn * Arab! builds his doctrine. That 
he would be influenced by his pantheistic predecessor, 
the martyred Al-IJallaj, goes without saying. The same 
is true of several Eastern Sufis with whose work Ibn 
' Arabi became acquainted during his stay in the Middle 
East. Coming after most of the founders of Islamic 
scholasticism, he naturally derived a great deal from the 
Ash'arites, the Mu'tazilah, the Carmathians and the 


Ikhw&n al-Safa, the earliest Muslim encyclopaedists 
Aristotle, in the Neo-platonic garb provided for him by 
the Muslim philosophers, left profound traces in Ibn 
'Arabi's system. So did the Hellenistic schools of 
Plotinus and the Stoics. Scholars have also detected 
Zoroastrian and Manichaean influences. Yet, whatever 
his source, he seldom failed to assimilate it so completely 
as to make it appear to originate in his own mind. This 
is particularly true of the use he makes of the Qur'an 
which he interprets in any way that happens to suit his 
peculiarly uncompromising system. 

Ibn 'Arabi's philosophy is usually described as 
pantheistic. Pantheism however, as commonly under- 
stood, is little more than an ennobled form of material- 
ism. Only in recent years have scholars begun to call 
Ibn 'Arab! a monist. Yet the term monism, as applied 
to him, seems not sufficiently qualitative to provide an 
adequate label for the great Murcian's theosophy. The 
term that might possibly suit his doctrine best is non- 
dualism, a term that implies not merely its monistic 
character but also its complete overcoming of all 
dualistic conceptions. He is, indeed, the sole Muslim 
thinker who, while accepting the uncompromising 
monotheism of the Qur'an, succeeded in providing that 
gospel with a philosophical interpretation that resolves 
the innumerable problems of duality as implied by the 
seemingly mutually contradictory statements of Islam's 
holy text. 

If it can be said that one single consideration pre- 
occupied Ibn 'Arab! more than any other it was the 
necessity for proving the non-duality of everything 
concerning God and His universe. A purely monistic 
answer to the problems of the apparent duality of a 
perfect God and an imperfect universe, of active and 
passive, of good and evil, of Divine omnipotence and 


human free will, would not have sufficed. It had to be 
shown unmistakably that there was no room for any 
duality whatsoever within and between the various 
elements. If any Western philosopher, rooted in a 
Semitic Weltanschauung, succeeded in providing such a 
non-dualistic philosophy, it was Ibn e ArabL He may 
often strain our patience almost beyond endurance; he 
may tax our powers of comprehension more severely 
than a,ny other philosopher, Western or Eastern; his 
apparent ambiguities and contradictions may drive us 
wellnigh to despair. But finally our patience is richly 
rewarded, A splendid system of perfect non-dualism 
rises before us, and innumerable questions that other 
Western systems leave only partially explained receive 
answers equally satisfying from a philosophical and a 
religious point of view. 

The difficulties which Ibn 'Arab! presents to the 
student lie not so much in the doctrine itself as in his 
style and method of reasoning. Some of these complexi- 
ties are deliberate; others derive from his peculiar type 
of mind. Conscious of the dangers threatening an un- 
orthodox thinker setting his views against those of 
theologians representing authority, Ibn 'Arab! delibera- 
tely complicated his style. He would try to make an 
outrageously heterodox piece of argumentation look 
irreproachable by expressing it in the language or 
imagery of orthodoxy. An original but not a systematic 
philosopher, he did not hesitate to use the same term to 
denote a number of different ideas, or to use identical 
terms to describe ideas that were not only not identical 
but mutually contradictory. A poet as well as a philo- 
sopher, he might employ a poetical diction that would 
pass muster in a lyrical work but only served to make his 
argument abtruse or even suggested an essential 
lack of self-discipline. As no single book contains his 


philosophy in toto, and his doctrine is to be extracted 
laboriously from the gargantuan volumes of the 
Futuhdt and the Fufiif-~not to speak of a number of less 
prolix books it will be evident that the task of com- 
mentators is not easy. Only a very genuine admiration 
of that remarkable genius can induce a student to 
wrangle with the innumerable difficulties that Ibn 
* Arabi found it necessary to create. 

Yet he has fascinated thinkers, theologians and poets 
almost from the day his works became known. 

It was inevitable that countless orthodox theologians 
should be revolted by what appeared heterodox, even 
scandalous in the ways in which he interpreted Qur'anic 
doctrine. His views on the incarnation of God in 
man (hulul) or the identification of man with* God 
(ittihdd) were naturally anathema to them. For is not 
the utter absence of such an incarnation one of Islam's 
fundamental postulates, one that distinguishes it so 
proudly from Christian 'polytheism 5 ? The learned 
ulema, of course, did not perceive that Ibn 'Arabl's 
doctrine of incarnation had nothing in common with 
the orthodox interpretation of the concept of incarna- 
tion. Throughout the centuries, controversy over Ibn 
'Arab! continued whenever his name was mentioned in 
theological or philosophical gatherings. Yet even his 
most ardent partisans and they were legion admitted 
that mystical doctrines as profound and as blindingly 
illuminating as his represented a danger to anyone but 
the initiated. Nevertheless, Muslim scholars persevered 
in reading his writings, and many a Sufi would copy 
these if only, by so doing, he might secure the blessing 
of their author. Among the better known scholars who 
defended his views we find Majdu '1-Din al-Flruzabadi 
(died A.D. 1414), Jalalu '1-Din al-Suyuti (d. 1445), and > 
a century later, 'Abdu '1-Wahhab al-Sha'ram. 


In the Western world, Dante provides one of the most 
conspicuous examples of Ibn 'Arabfs pervasive 
influence. Senor Asin y Palacios, the leading authority 
on the subject, has proved in his remarkable studies 
published in the volume Islam and the Divine Comedy 
(John Murray, London, 1926) that not only were 
innumerable ideas in the Divine Comedy inspired by 
Ibn * Arabi, but the entire geography of heaven and hell 
was taken over by Dante from Ibn 'Arab! (and other 
Muslim sources). And to mention but one other Western 
thinker whose work unmistakably shows Ibn 'Arabi's 
influence, there is Ramon Lull, the Spanish mystic. 



(A) GOD 

IF Ibn 'Arab! is usually described as a pantheist, there 
is ample justification in his own arguments. For while 
the Qur'an declares: There- is_but one God\ Ibn 
'Arabi maintains that * there is nothing but God*. His 
abandonment of the Islamic conception of God as the 
creator and cause of the universe, in favour of a God 
who is everything, definitely suggests a step fromjnonD- 
theism to pantheism. While the Prophet Muhammad 
preached a God who is cause and a universe that is 
effect, the majority of Muslim philosophers introduced 
between God and His creation such intermediaries as 
the First Cause or the Universal Spirit. Ibn 'Arabi will 
have none of these intermediaries, but only l absolute 
unification*. ThougET again lincf again he tries toj^con- 
cil^^r sf pantheistic > jjod with the Unitarian GocL of 
the Quran, fiisTjod 'Who is everything' must needs 
differ greatly from the Quranic 1 God 'like unto whom 
there is nothing'. His God is not one who creates or 
from whom anything but Himself emanates, but a 
God whojnantfests jffimself in an infinity of forms. ^ 

TKT^Arabi distinguishes between the finite God of 
religion and the infinite Gpd^mysffcism. The God of 
religion reveals Himself in various forms reflected in 
the different religions. It depends upon theJcapacitY^. 
qthe believer jitfhich one oFlliese forms (religions) he 
accepts. The God of the mystic contains all His forms, 
for the mystic's heart alone is ail-receptive. While the 


God of religion manifests Himself in man as both virtue 
and sin, the God of the mystic reveals^ Himself in, a 
manner thatJ^oridjflitue mdjin, As we shall 

discover, this is an utterly a-moral God. 

That Jtoe_J^stic^God c an obviou^^Jbe 
Muslim nor Christian, ffu33Elsf,~3ewish nor pagan is 
expressed beautifully in IBn~TSr i ab1YTamous ode 
contained in his Tarjumdr^l-Ashwag^ a collection of 
mystical odes: """ 

'My heart is capable of every form, 
A cloister for the monk, a fane for idols, 
A pasture for gazelles, the pilgrim's Ka'ba, 
The Tables of the Torah, the Koran. 
Love is the faith I hold : wherever turn 
His camels, still the one true faith is mine.' 1 

Since God is the jssence of all existence, man needs 
Him so that He may existTTTn the other hand, Qod 
needs man, so that He may nlanifest Himself _to 

Dixane^ssgnce^ for Ibn 'Arabi^is pure without ^attri- 
butes. It is endowed with Attributes when it manifests 
itself, either in the universe or in man (who is part of 
it), for all created things are His Attributes. Viewed as 
His Attributes, they are^ identical with God. When 
viewed apart!* om God as they are by the rationalist 
and materialist they are nothing. Since the universe 
and everything within it, are God's manifested Attri- 
butes their existence is relative; God's is absolute. 

By knowing itself, the Divine essence knows all 
things within itself. Nevertheless it distinguishes them 
from itself as objects of its knowledge. This, however, 

1 R. A. Nicholson's translation in his edition of Tarjumdnu 'l-Ashwdq 
(Oriental Translation Fund, New Series, vol. xx, p. 19, w. 13-15). 


does not imply that there is some duality between the 
known object and the knowing subject. Since the 
Divine essence is jhe knower^_the_known and the 
lowing, thereT exists completejmity of the subject., tEe 
object^ an? the lunctioiT that establishes^ a _jelalioilsEip 
between them. 


In conformity with the Qur'an, Ibn 'Arab! regards 
the world as undergoing an eternal process of creation. 
In conformity with the Ash'arites (and the atomists) 
he regards that process as one of constant annihilation 
and creation. Annihilation Jb.ere_ simpjy_ joea n s t* 1 a* 
since an object changes from moment to moment, it 
cannotTbe the same once the change has taken place. 
Since it has ceased to be its old self, that self no longer 
exists. In order that it might cease to exist, it must 
obviously have been annihilated. Otherwise there 
would be not one object but an infinite number of them, 
If God exists, and if everything has its being in Him, 
it follows that the universe was not created at some 
moment in the distant past ever since evolving on its 
own but that it manifests constantly the Divine 
existence of its maker. This means that the universe is 
in a perpetual state of creation. AccordiJag^toTTBii 
'ArabL God does not createT anything. Creation means 

-^^~Y^<~' - ^- p-~ r ~ s< ____ " "-- ___ -* '-o^- . -- ' ---- 

simply the coming mto^concrete manifestation of some> 

God). While this doctrine is in 

agreement with that of most Muslim philosophers, it is 
at complete variance with the views of Al-Ghazali, who 
regards every spiritual perception ancTeven sensory 
experience as something entirely new, created afresfTby 
jjoflMjTO^ as though out of a 


Though God may will a thing to be, its existence is 


made necessary by the very nature of the laws within 
the thing itself. Actually, for Ibn 'Arabl* God isjthe 
name for those Jaws. 

TJFparticular interest is Ibn ' Arabf s discussion of the 
way in which the potential existence of things (inherent 
within God's essence) becomes actual existence in the 
phenomenal world. This was, of course, a subject that 
preoccupied most of the philosophers, and one that we 
associate with Platq^s Ide^SLor the impact of a form 
(eidos) uporfmatter, in Aristotle. Ibn c Arab! divides the 
Divine_essence or, at least, that aspect of it that 
iSamfests itself in tangible phenomena into Divine 
Names and Divine Attributes. He views a Diyme Name 
a^T~Tin^^ its 

manifestation. We could paraphrase him by saying that 
a DiyiMjName is the creative element that holds within 
itself the potentiality "ora" particular phenomenon (that 
might, or might not, come into tangible existence). In 
other words, it is the active element within the Divine 
essence out of which a given phenomenon will emerge. 
A Divine Attribute, on the other hand, is a Divine 
Name manifeste^TrTthe "external world? It is TTKe 
phenoi^njir^oBJect, though not necessarily a material 
oneTFbr, in Ibn f Arabi's doctrine, any human thought 
or activity, too, has its primary beffig in the Dlvink 
essence in which^ before its jexternal manifestation^ it 
forms the 'apposite Divine Name. Whereas a Divine 
Attribute, bemg an exteriorization of the Divine Name, 
must needs be transient and represent Fhe ^passive* 
element in the procedure, the Divine essence is, of 
course, unchangeable^ in^stn^tible, and embracing 
both its (potentially) phenomenal and non-phenomenal 
aspects. Thus it is more than the Platonic Idea, which 
denotes only the spiritual reality behind a phenomenon, 
and which disregards the latter's concrete manifestation. 


But then, for Plato, such manifestations were mere 
shadows. For Ibn 'Arab!, they wgre. jiarticular aspects 

Ibn 'Arabi, in his effort to make his doctrine all- 
embracing, characteristically treats the same subject in 
yet other terms. He speaks of Divine consciousness 
which embraces all the intelligible forms of the proto- 
types or ctyaU) as he calls them, and which, as we shall 
see later, he identifies with the Logos, or the Spirit of 
Muhammad. The Divine essence embraces all the 
potential essences of the prototypes, which would seem 
to be but another title for the Divine Names. Indeed 
Ibn c Arabi calls them also 'latent realities' or Al-a'cydn 
al-thabitah. He defines the essence^ of j:;ach of them as a 
'mode' of God, and it is through that essence that God 
becomes conscious of each one of thern. 


It should be possible by now to divine how Ibn ' Arabi 
solves the problem ^thejmltJL2fjSQd and the multi- 
plicity within the universe or, to put it differently, how 
he resolves the supposed duality in the relationship 
between God and His creatures. Naturally, he admits 
the existence of multiplicity in the world or, irTHIs own 
words, of the many, khalq. But he does not admit the 
reality of the many in terms of their substance as op- 
posed to essence. He accepts only one Reality, Al-Haqq 
(the Ana al-Haqq of ^QBHallaj). As viewed'Ey* Itself, that 
is, as God viewing Himself, or when viewed by ourselves 
as the essence behind all phenomena, their JReality; 
indeed is^but one^ and can be nc^hin^butSne^ It can 
only be regarded as many^ when jyiewed solely as 
m ^^^^^L^^^^^^ G1 ^^> i' c - when viewed HGy 
ourselves in an intellectual or sensory way (that is, 
as substance). 

Ibn 'Arabi's doctrine is by no means identical with 
the corresponding doctrine of Plotinus, for whom 
Reality is the cause of everything. (In this Plotinus, 
would be at one with orthodox Muslim doctrine.) For 
Ibn 'Arabi, the One jotot the cause but the essence of 
everything^ This difference in the two doctrines is 
"fundamental. To be the maker of the thing I produce is 
one matter; it is quite another matter to be the thing 
itself or, rather, to share with it my essence. To paint the 
picture of a child is not identical with giving birth to a 

It should now be evident that for Ibn * Arabi multL 
plicity has no spirituaj[jgality, for it Is^not due to 
division witEm the One. It is due to our own individual 
pomts of view. AsTiumans, we can see only fragments of 
the.whole^Moreover, we~seiaDnrpenetrafe beyoiicT their 
surface. Accordingto Ibn ' Arabi, the mystic alone can 
percedve J^odJF^^ 

multiglid^rTTcouldnbe said that, for Ibn 'Arab!, the 
relationship between God and His creatures is that of an 
object re^ec^riS "counfless^nurrors. These reflections 
obviously cannot exist without Him, and, jn.ajvay, they 
are He. At the same time they are obviously not He. 
They are He when we are aware that the reflected 
image is but a reflection ; they are not He when we for- 
get the object they reflect and accept them as final 
realities. So it is quite permissiable for Ibn 'Arab! to say 
both: 'I am HeandJ^eJ^I,' and also 'I am He andjnnt 
He.' HiTG^ir^otlitrajiscendental and immanent. 


If there is really no duality of God and man, we might 
ask: why should the mystic be so eager to effect a union 
with God; why should the devout always seek a bridge 
that would lead him to God? On the basis of Ibn 1 


'Arabfs doctrine, the very words 
'unification* with_^God and so on, are "meaningless, 
For these words presuppose an original separateness 
from God. For JEhnJAral^union with God is not an 
eventual reaching or meeting Him but rather a JK^ 
coming aware of a relationsl^^th^t has ah^ys existed. 
What the individual soul does is merely to awaken to 
the realization of its unity with God. 1 The fact that I am 
(fortunately, but seldom) aware of my liver or my 
teeth does not presuppose that in order to achieve that 
awareness I must go outside of myself in search of 
either of these. Ibn 'Arab! nat^ 
5^erJ?econaes jGLod, as God never jDecomes man. They; 
are always one, even though we are seldom a/ware of 
this fact. Only the true mystic can be aware of it_ 

What Ibn 'Arab! says about Divine es^noejbeing 
conscious of itself in toto and also of individual Names, 
afipEes equally to his doctrine of the soul. In common 
with several philosophers, he accepts the doctrine of a 
Universal Soul. Where he differs from them is in point- 
ing out'thaTtfthe individual soul within it is not 'part' 
of it. For how, he asks, can soul a spiritual entity 
be divided into parts ? The very word 'part' presupposes 
quantity. Yet within the realm of spirit everything is 
quality (essence). The Universal Soul is conscious both 
of ^itself jis_a_ whqlejmd of each individual soul Svithiii' 
h^ The latter, forming an individual aspect of the 
Universal Soul, cannot be conscious of the whole but 
only of itself. Thus God differs from man only in the 
sense that a thing differs from its individual 

According to Ibn 'Arabi, man consists of three 
elements i spirit, soul and body. The three aspects of the 
soul are the rational, vegetative and animal. The 

1 See text from Kitdb al-Ajwiba. 

c 33 

rational soul Ibn *Arabi seems to identify with spirit^or 
the rational principle in man (and not, as does Aristotle, 
with intellect). The purpose of the JEgelatlye &QllUs to 
seek food and to assimilate it. The animal soul has its 

in tbf^h^LcaTheart and is shared by man and 
animals. It represents their vital principle. Both 
vegetative and animals souls Ibn 'Arab! regards as 
part of the body. Thej2ii9Bal&Qul, on the other hand, is 
independent. sLthe body, even though it uses it as a 
vehicle. It is 'that perfect and simplest substance which 
is living and active, the substance whose sole activities 
arenFemeriibenng, retaining ideas, comprehending, 
discrirnTriating, and reflecting'. 1 

Viewed superficially, IbfPArabi's division into spirit 
and body (rationality and animality) might wear a look 
of dualism. In actual fact both spirit and body are, for 
him, facets of the same central Reality, one being its 
inward, the other its outward, aspect. While he admits 
that^the body, unlike the jgsirit, is destructible, he 
neverth^ess^fffers from many Muslim philosophers 
in according it real being. Indeed, how could the body 
be without such being in view of the fact that it repre- 
sents the outward aspect of reality? 


The chief aim of early Muslim philosophers was to 
acquire intellectual command of truths which during 
the years immediately following the death of the 
Prophet were accepted unquestioningly on faith. So 
long as the Muslim community felt no need for rational- 
izing Quranic truths, it could dispense with the acquisi- 
tion of a knowledge built on reason. But gradually the 
Muslims found themselves compelled to explain 

1 Risalahfi Ma'nd al-Nafs wa-l-Rub, Publ. by Asin y Palacios, in the Acts 
of the iqth Oriental Congress, Algiers 1905, p. 153. 


Quranic revelation in terms intellectually acceptable. 
Attacks by Christian antagonists alone made such a 
task imperative. However, as soon as they began to 
tackle the problem of rational knowledge, questions 
concerning the technique through which the mind 
works forced themselves upon their attention. Does 
knowlege come direct from God or is it the fruit of man's 
own efforts? Does it reach the mind directly or are 
complex processes involved ? Is the mind one indivisible 
entity or does it work through separate channels ? These 
and kindred questions had to be answered. The quest 
for valid answers enabled the philosophers to probe into 
problems that had only been touched upon by their 
Greek masters. Some of the answers they evolved have 
not been invalidated even by modern psychological 
research. Al-Kindi, writing a thousand years ago, 
developed a theory (of four types of 'spirit') that nothing 
in 20th century psychology could easily refute. Ibn 
Sina put forward a doctrine of the internal faculties of 
perception that, while not dissimilar from Al-Kind!'s, 
surpassed it in precision and elegance. Even Al-Ghazali 
turned his attention to the ways by which the mind 
acquired knowledge; and Ibn Rushd and many others 
threw new light on that problem. 

Ibn 'Arab! was no exception, and many pages of 
his major works deal with the problem of knowledge. 
But, as we should expect, his theories differ in their most 
important aspects from those of other philosophers, 
even though they show a resemblance with those of the 
Sufis. According to hiiri^lhej&uL^^^ 
tnowledge^ but^^is^forgotten 5 'during its association 
with the body. Thus r any newly acquired knowledgejs 
in^^aTTty^oIcT knowledge suddenly remembered Jby 
tl^sojyii/THrnEng processes hefaefines as the relating of 
concepts (already existing in the soul) to each other. 


(As Leonardo da Vinci said: 'To understand is to set up 
a relationship.') Eachxcuicept represents an unchange- 
able idea. A given relationship between concepts 
cannot change. Each change means that a completely 
new relationship has been entered into by the concepts 
or the ideas they represent. (Here Ibn * Arab! obviously 
bases himself on Aristotle's theory of the eternal nature 
of the eidos and its subsequent inability to change, a 
theory accepted by most Muslim philosophers, though 
not by Al-GhazalL) 

Where Ibn * Arab! differs from other Islamic thinkers 
is in his views on the innermost nature of knowledge. 
Man^sjgower tojipprehend the power that they usually 
describe as spirit he defines as light, al nur. In man this 
light takes_th_form of thejrational jsoul_ which, in turn, 
is a 'mode' of Universal Reason^ al^aql al-kulli, the 
Aristotelian Agent Intellect or Neo-platonic Logos. How 
then does the light operate in man? 1 

The first step in the acquisition of ordinary knowledge 
is asensory perception. But what is it that enables the 
senses to perceive an object? According to our philo- 
sopher, it js the apprehending Light. That Light forms 
the essence of tKe senses. The impressions derived by the 
senses are instantly transferred to the heart which, in 
turn, passes them on to the intellect. The intellect, 
located mj^ Jbjrainj jrecognizes ^ these impressions for 
what they are, namely sense perceptions, and then 

From there they 

finally reach the understanding (mufakkirafi) , which 
analyses and tabulates them. The perceptions that are 
of the greatest interest to the mind are retained by the 
faculty closest to the heart (not, however, the physical 
organ), namely memory. Now all the different channels 
through which perception is being gathered and or- 

1 See text from the Futuftat. 


ganized function thanks to Light. Both mental faculties 
and sensory perceptions owe their rational character 
to that Light, the seat of which Ibn 'Arab! identifies 
with a non-physical centre which he calls the heart or, 
sometimes, the inward eye, al-ayn al-bastrah. Every- 
thing that enables us to apprehend life in fact our very 
awareness of living is this light. 

It is not always easy to follow Ibn 'Arabi in his 
explanations of the light. It would appear, however, 
that he identifies it with our rational soul. We think 
and feel, hear and see, form images and memorize, by 
means of various faculties and senses. In their essence all 
these are light. In other words, light is the quality (or 
force) through which apprehension takes place. We 
might call it the inmost essence of our intelligence or 
that which, in the phenomenal world, is least separated 
from the Divine. 

Now it is the objects of our apprehension that come 
into question: the phenomena, relationships, actions 
and, finally, ideas, which the light enables us to appre- 
hend. What is their essence? Since God is the root of 
everything that is, He is Light par excellence. And so all 
His creatures, men and beasts, ideas, trees and microbes, 
are manifestations of Light. It follows, therefore, that 
both the apprehending intelligence and its objects are 
(functions of) Light. Equally true are the two opposite 
formulations: what is not Light cannot apprehend 
Light; and what is not Light cannot be apprehended by 
Light. Indeed Ibn * Arabi points out that if a thing or 
idea cannot be apprehended by any kind of mind, it has 
no reality. It is even more obvious that what is not 
Light for example, the mind of a complete idiot 
cannot apprehend the Light (the truth), whether of 
objects or ideas. 

The most perfect knowledge accessible to man is that 


of a mystic, Ibn 'Arab! tells us. In the mystic's case 
Divine essence is revealed directly to the 'heart' in an 
immediate vision. Such a vision does not depend upon 
the intellect, and it can dispense with the complicated 
processes of apprehension requisite for conceptual 
knowledge. The mystic's heart sees (or reflects) all the 
Divine perfections which, otherwise, are scattered in 
endless multiplicity throughout the universe. In fact 
only the mystic's heart can perceive Reality itself which 
is beyond thought. 


So far we have not discussed Ibn 'Arabi's views re- 
garding objects other than man and animal. Since he 
does not attribute to a stone or a twig the_ratiaaality 
that distinguishes man, they might seem to exist in some 
substratum untouched by the Divine spirit. Yet Ibn 
'Arabi, while denying them the personal rationality 
possessed by man, insists^thaj: they mamfest_j3egtsi 
rationality. This results from their following their own 
inner laws. And, as we know, all laws originate in God. 
It will be remembered that, according to Ibn 'Arabi, 
all pl^nomena_are God's Attributes. In so far as all 

su 9^LJ^iofeMt^^ PiY^s^^Njysss 

which, in turn, are aspects (or localizations) of the 
Diy1ft^L^???perth~ey^are^ll identical in origin, though 
not in their phenomenal manifestation. Must we then 
assume that a stone's relationship to God does not 
differ from that of man to God ? 

Ibn 'Arabi tells us that man alone can knov^God 
perfectly (just as God knows Himself through man 
wKois God's consciousness 'in manifestation' that is, 
exteriorized or made Visible'). EveoJlhe angels know 
less of God than does man, for they know Him only in 
His transcendental nature which has no relation to the 


phenomenal world. Man alone can know God both in 
His aspects of the Real and the jphenonienaL Why 
Because, of all God's creatures, man alone is both real 
and phenomenal, eternal and transiient, internal and 
external. Inanjn^tejo^[ects, on the other Sand, can 
know of GoJ^oi3rnuch as 

selves. that is, ""of Crod's^^paHIanarName revealed 
through them. They know God's i 'stoniness' or what is 
stone within God; they know what is water, or metal, 
or cabbage, in Him. Beyond any of these or similar 
organisms, they can know nothing of God. . 


Under the influence of Plato and Aristotle, Muslim 
philosophy was greatly preoccupied with the question 
of what constitutes a thing, or shay*. According to the 
Mu'tazilah, a thing was a concept that could be known 
regardless of whether it actually existed or not, existence 
being only one of its various qualities. Ibn 'Arabi, too, 
conceives of being as possible apart from things that 
actually exist. It is only in the phenomenal world that 
the quality of being must be possessed by an object in 
order that it may exist. 

How then does Ibn 'Arabi define non-being? He 
divides things that have no being intojwo Categories* 
To the first belong things that have no existence in any 
of the planes of pure Being, that is God. These he calls 
pure non-existent. To his second categQjy belongjthingg 
which exist in one plane but not in another. He divides 
them into two sub-categoriesi things which exist only 
as intellectual concepts without the possibility of exis- 
tence in the actual world (like, we might say, the con- 
cept of a man with a hundred heads or a fire that is 
wet); and, second, things which have a possible exis- 
tence in the actual world without, however, existing in 


it. (Such a thing would have been, for non-Australians, 
the black swan in the days before Australia was dis- 
covered, or any invention prior to its having been made, 
e.g. the telephone or the jet plane a hundred years ago.) 
Ibn ' Arabi points out that while these last two categories 
of non-being can be objects of our thought, pure non- 
being can never be; in other words, any concept that 
our mind cannot possibly conceive is pure non-being. 
This means that pure non-being is everything that 
cannot be thought of or put into symbols. 

Ibn 'Arabl's views are not dissimilar to those of the 
Ikhwan al-Safa who held that a concept that cannot be 
expressed in language is unthinkable. So they called the 
word the 'body of the thought, 5 and maintained that 
thought cannot exist without its verbal body. Ibn 
'Arab! would certainly not disagree with this, for he 
regarded both words and thoughts as Divine Attributes 
and, thus, as partaking in the Divine essence. However, 
something for which neither a word nor a thought can 
be found cannot partake of that essence and thus is 
pure non-existent. 


Only with the advent of Jung's analytical psychology 
has the world become familiar with the concept of the 
archetypal dreams, dreams whose sources are to be 
sought not in the subconscious of the individual but in 
that of an entire civilization or nation. Most people 
consider the notion of the archetypal dream as not only 
new but revolutionary. In actual fact it is not new. For 
Jung's formulation of such a dream can be found in 
Ibn 'Arabi. 

Ibn 'Arabi regards dreams as khayal, or mental 
images (imaginings) which represent something be- 
tween the real and the phenomenal worlds, as do our 


imaginings. He also interprets khaydl as anything that 
provides a symbol for either reality or for some hidden 
meaning. In this particular sense, the entire phenomenal 
world might be considered khaydl. In fact both that 
world and dreams he regards as symbols of hidden 

It is during dreams that imagination is at its most 
active, producing ordinary dreams. According to Ibn 
'Arabi, it is then that imagination gets hold of experi- 
ences of daily life, and presents them to the 'inward 
eye' (of the heart). In the inward eye, they are magni- 
fied as though in a mirror, and it is the subsequently 
distorted image of those experiences that fill our dreams. 
Usually these images become the foci or symbols of 
our desires. 

There also exists a second type of dream, which Ibn 
' Arab! regards as of far greater significance, the material 
for which comes not from our ordinary daytime 
experiences but direct from the Universal Soul, or, as 
Ibn 'Arab! sometimes calls it, the 'Guarded Table'. In 
such a dream man's (rational) soul perceives the arche- 
typal ideas contained in the Universal Soul. But even 
in such dreams imagination gains possession of the 
received ideas, and distorts them. As a result, man's 
'inward eye', while in direct contact with the Universal 
Soul, nevertheless does not act as a perfect mirror but as 
a 'running, yet undefiled, stream wherein are reflected 
illuminated objects of all descriptions'. 1 Thus the 
dreamer sees only the reflections of the archetypal 
ideas, and these are merely the symbols of the latter. 
The symbols have been provided by the dreamer's own 
imagination and not by the Universal Soul that 
presented the ideas in all their purity. In consequence, 
these dreams, being symbolical, have to be interpreted. 

1 From Mtihfyat al-Qalb, quoted by Affifi, op. cit. p. 132. 


For only the reality behind the symbols is real 'know- 
ledge'. (This notion, we might add, would offer 
opportunities to a Jungian analyst.) 

There is, however, one type of dream that is not 
symbolical but a direct revelation of Reality. Imagina- 
tion does not enter into it, and the 'inward eye' re- 
produces the exact reflection of the impression received. 
In such a dream, the Universal Soul (with its arche- 
typal ideas) reveals itself direct to man's soul without 
any distortion. (What Ibn 'Arab! means, of course, is 
that the Universal Soul reveals itself through the med- 
ium of the individual soul.) Dreams of this nature 
obviously call for no interpretation. They are the truly 
archetypal dreams, and are similar to the mystic's 
revelation (wahy) or inspiration (ilhdrri). They are the 
direct vision of Reality, of Universal Truth. 


The hardest test for a non-dualistic philosophy is pro- 
vided by such distinctly dualistic concepts as those of 
active and passive, cause and effect, and, finally, good 
and evil. Aristotelian logic is compelled (by its very 
nature) to accept the dualistic nature of these concepts. 
But the acceptance of such a dualism by Ibn ' ArabI 
would inevitably bring down the entire house of his 
monistic^ doctrine. That his doctrine actually passes 
the testisnot due to the author's piecemeal justification, 
but to the fact that its validity follows organically from 
the basic principles of his philosophy. 

For Ibn 'Arabi's universe is not the effect of a cause 
thatisGodj just as a phenomenon is not the Aristotelian 
outcome of the imprint of form upon matter or, in other 
words, of the necessary upon the possible. His universe 
is^he^outward expressipyi of God's aspects of eternity 
and infinity. Thus his universe botlrthe phenomenal, 


and the invisible that we enter in the hereafter is a 
constant process of creation. 

In a system in which God provides both (what in 
Aristotelian terminology must be called) cause and 
effect, there must exist a like unity of origin on the 
plane of visible phenomena, and terms such as cause 
and effect can have no meaning. For Ibn 'Arab! God 
is J:he only jource of both the U^tnm^a 
ced^by it, ofboth the painter 


painto^s picture. Both hayejlieir origin in Him, and so 
GodJ^mmanent JjaJjjQtbLpf ttese_phenqmyia we call 
cause and effect 

TBiT^Srabi might have felt justified in explaining 
away the duality of active and passive by merely 
identifying the former with cause and the latter with 
effect. But to seek refuge in intellectual shortcuts was 
not his way of building up a philosophical system. 

In the more conventional systems man appears as the 
passive agent created by the will of an active God. For 
Ibn^Arabi jnaj^i^jgasswejorily when he considers him- 
selTas apart fromJOod, that is, exclusively ^lajphenp- 
As soon, however, as h^ecomes aware of his 

"^ et even irTtKat 

condition he is also passive in so far as his 'active* nature 
comes from God whose agent he is. Thus he is both 
active ancL PJLSsiyej; active when 

'passive when viewed as merelyjhenomerial. However, 
in Ibn 'Arabl's system these definitions have no real 
meaning. They represent merely our own mental 
conceptions born of our tendency to view everything in 
terms of opposites, contrasts, duality. Duality presup- 
poses the existence of space, a dimension non-existent 
in pure spirit. It also presupposes the possibility of 
disharmony or disunity, and opens doors to the 
'possible', in contradistinction to the 'necessary*. 


Within the realm of pure spirit neither of these can 
occur. There can only be unity, harmony and necessity. 
So opposites, with their inevitable concomitants of 
space, disunity, impermanence, and so on, can be 
conceived only mentally, when we view the world 

What is true of cause and effect applies equally to 
active and passive. Thus the object of an action its 
'passive' recipient is in turn active by his reaction to 
it. If I hit someone, the reactions of the latter's muscles, 
nerves, blood vessels, as well as of his mind and emo- 
tions, constitute quite as much an 'action' as did the 
original blow. 


It is by no means exceptional for Ibn * Arabi to put 
forward more than one theory on a given subject, one 
either amplifying the other or treating it from a different 
aspect. As we would expect, Ibn ' Arabi's conception of 
absolute Reality (Al-Haqq), which is that of absolute 
Good (Al-Khayr al-Mahd), leaves no room for the duality 
of good and evil. In the universe, as known to us, he 
regards evil as non-existence, or rather, as the absence 
of real existence. Such existence (belonging, as it does, 
to Reality) must, of course, be 'positive'. Evil is thus 
the lack of a corresponding positive quality. Darkness 
is the absence of light, weakness the absence of strength, 
a lie the absence of truth, illness the absence of health. 
An organ becomes ill when health has been withdrawn 
from it. It cannot exist in a condition of 'neutrality' 
neither healthy nor unhealthy illness thus being not a 
'quality' negative per se, but rather non-health. Every- 
thing that really exists is for Ibn 'Arab! good otherwise 
it could not be there. Consequently he regards evil as a 
subjective, and not an objective, reality. 


In the eyes of God all things must be good. Only 
man's ignorance calls some of them good and some bad. 
In his blindness man does not perceive that in the bad 
things goodness might possibly lie hidden behind their 
evil appearance. We might cite as an illustration of that 
truth the positive qualitites of electricity which have 
always existed in, but which were discovered only after 
the evil forces inherent in lightning. Before their dis- 
covery man could see no good whatsoever therein. 
Likewise, the positive qualitites within penicillin had 
potentially always existed within the mildew; but only 
the mould's negative qualities were known before 
Alexander Fleming's discovery. In its internal aspect, 
Ibn 'Arab! considers everything to be good; only in its 
external aspect, that is as mere appearance (khalq) may 
a thing appear evil. 

Since good cannot produce anything that is evil qua 
evil, its evilness derives its apparent reality (that is, in 
the world of appearance) from man's individual 
reaction to it. A thing is considered evil because the 
prevailing convention, morality or religious codes label 
it as such. It appears as evil because it creates conflicts 
with certain mental or emotional desires, or because it 
disagrees with our individual temperament. Ibn 
'Arab! insists that even such evil manifestations as 
lying, disorder, ugliness, sinful action, merely denote 
the absence of a positive quality, the presence of which 
would deprive them of their evilness. 

Now let us examine Ibn 'Arabl's second interpreta- 
tion of evil. God's universe would not be perfect if it 
did not also include imperfections. Perfection, which 
implies completeness, must include everything, just as a 
perfect, i.e. complete, colour scheme cannot be limited 
to 'pretty' colours but must contain every imaginable 
hue even 'dirty' greys and browns and black. Without 


them the scheme would not be complete. It follows from 
this that, in order to show perfection, the sum-total 
of happenings and actions within the universe must of 
necessity include 'imperfect', that is, 'evil', happenings 
and actions. Since, however, all those actions derive 
their being from God, it is He who ultimately decrees 
or commands them. 

What then is the meaning of sin, mcfsiyah, in Ibn 
'Arabl's system? According to him, God decrees that 
an action must take place, but forbids man to perform 
it or, as he puts it, 'the prophets are asked to communi- 
cate God's commandments to the people, but God does 
not always will that such commandments be fulfilled'. 
The contradiction implied in this statement is apparent 
rather than real. What Ibn 'Arab! means is that God 
decrees an action irrespective of whether, in human 
eyes, it appears good or evil, God's decree (al-mashfah) 
makes such an action as indispensable as it makes the 
advent of night after day, of autumn after summer, and 
so on. God does not particularly command the darkness 
of the night or winter's cold, just as He does not 
particularly command the evil of any particular action. 
What He decrees is the action in its totality, irrespective 
of whether we regard it as good or bad. It is not the 
evil aspect in the action that He decrees but the action 
as a whole and as an inevitable expression of His law. 
In other words. He wills the action but not the evil 
within it. He must approve of all actions because they 
are all His. The conflict (nizd*} between them (in so 
far as they contain what appears to us as evil) and hu- 
man law or morality exists only for us who are ignorant 
of the decree behind all God's manifestations. Actions 
qua actions could not become manifest unless they were 
'approved' by God. 

Sin, then, in Ibn 'Arabi's doctrine, is disobedience 

not to God's will (which would be impossible for man), 
but to the 'mediate religious command'. 1 In God's eyes 
everything that is must be. Since it must be, it would 
be futile to define it as either good or evil. All that 
can be said about it is that it is. We are thus entitled to 
conclude that for Ibn 'Arab! morality, in a spiritual 
sense, does not exist, or to put it differently, that he 
considers morality as a purely human code. Within a 
non-dualistic system such as his, in which everything 
derives from God, there can be no room for the ordinary 
concept of morality. 

And yet morality enters Ibn 'Arabi's doctrine as it 
were through a back door. But it is a morality conceived 
not in the conventional way of relative values more 
good or less good, and thus quantitative but a 
'morality' that is purely qualitative, and that derives its 
validity from purely spiritual considerations. Even in 
Ibn 'Arabi's scheme man must strive for the good. Yet 
he must do so, not because such striving denotes virtue 
or moral soundness, but because it concerns itself with 
the positive alone. For only the positive light, truth, 
health represent reality, existence. A life of 'evil' is a 
life of their opposites or 'absences', and thus of spiritual 
non-existence. It is not an affirmation of life but of 
escape from it, of only apparent existence. 

'Aware' of the dilemma confronting man living in a 
universe in which everything is willed by Him, God has 
given man means by which to differentiate between a 
life of affirmation and one of escapes. It is due to God 
that man can distinguish between perfection and im- 
perfection, good and evil, harmony and disharmony. If 
man were not under the obligation to choose the real 
rather than its opposite and thus the 'moral' rather than 
the 'immoral', there would be no meaning in God's 
. 319. 


injunctions to man to be c goocT. If everything on the 
human level were equally 'good', there would be no 
validity in some of the Divine Names which, by them- 
selves, imply the 'moral' character of the relationship 
between God and man. God the Pardoner (Al-Ghqffdr}) 
the Merciful (Al-Rahim], the Tormentor (Al-Mtfadh- 
dhib), the Guiding (Al-Hddi) y would be meaningless if 
man regarded every one of God's manifestations as 
equally 'good' (in human terms) and had no need of 
His mercy or his guidance. In the purely spiritual 
sphere, that of absolute existence, Ibn 'Arab! obviously 
cannot accept the dichotomy of good and evil and with 
it morality. But in the world of appearance, the one in 
which man normally lives, even he must stress the 
contrast between moral and the immoral action. How- 
ever, the decisive factor for him is not the moral aspect 
of an action but its reality. 


The problem of free will and predestination preoccupied 
the Muslim philosophers from the very dawn of their 
contemplations. The Qur'an abounds in sayings 
stressing both man's freedom of action and God's 
absolute power over man's destiny. The various philo- 
sophical schools employed the most ingenious methods 
to resolve the implicit conflict; but it cannot be said that 
they ever succeeded in their attempts. The Determinists 
(Al-Jabnyyah) held that man's actions are determined 
by an outside agent, namely God; according to the 
Ash'arites, God created man and all his actions; the 
Mu* tazilah held that while a man's action derives from 
his free will, his ability to act is God-given. But however 
subtle their arguments, none of the schools provided a 
satisfactory reconciliation of the Quranic theses insist- 
ing on both God's omnipotence and man's free will. 

Ibn 'Arab! disagrees with the doctrine otjabr as a 
compulsion forced upon man from an outside agent. 
Yet it was obviously impossible for him to accept free 
will, for this would have left him no alternative but the 
opposition of man's will to that of God, and thereby 
have introduced dualism. Since, according to him, 
everything has its origin and being in God, free will, as 
ordinarily understood, can have no place in his system. 
Does it follow that his God as a kind of tyrant who 
steps in every time man performs an action and imposes 
His dictate upon him? Does it mean that human choice 
is governed by a relentless determinism and that man is 
the helpless victim of Divine arbitrariness? For Ibn 
'Arab! man's choice is not dictated by perpetual 
interference on the part of God but by man's own inner 
laws. Every leaf, flower and fruit is 'predetermined' 
already by the seed from which it evolved. It is not 
Divine capriciousness that makes one seed grow into a 
big oak tree and another into a weakly maple; their 
respective inner laws are contained in their seed. Ibn 
' Arab! accepts man's own choice, but finds it inherent in 
his own nature. Since, however, that nature derives 
from God, free will, in the accepted sense, plays no part 
in our philosopher's doctrine. 

To understand his theory of human will it is necessary 
first to know that what he really means by 'will' is not 
exactly our habitual meaning. It signifies, rather, desire, 
shahwah. It is not will but desire that makes a man crave 
the satisfaction of some appetite. Desire, according to 
Ibn ' Arabi, is concerned with material objects. Will, on 
the other hand, is a spiritual force whose object is never 
a material one. Will drives man towards spiritual 
fulfilment, and, finally, towards the Divine. As such it is 
free from all pleasant or unpleasant sensations. Even to 
feel pleasure at the hope of gaining a vision of God is 


not the outcome of will but of the desire Tor an object'. 
But, of course, Ibn 'Arabi's 'will 8 and its gratification 
are the privilege of a few exceptional beings, such as the 
saints and mystics. 

Though Ibn 'Arab! occasionally tries to place a 
personal responsibility on human shoulders ('let him 
praise no one but himself and blame no one but him- 
self,' he writes in the Fusus p. 160), such efforts carry no 
ring of conviction, and we suspect that they were a half- 
hearted sop to the orthodox. In actual fact he denies 
free will even to God. God merely decrees what He 
knows must take place in accordance with the laws that 
have their being in Him. It is impossible for Him to will 
what does not lie in the nature of the thing itself. 
This means that human fate is not pre-determined but 
.y^-determined. Individual fate is simply man's essential 
character as it exists from eternity in the Divine know- 
ledge. Man receives as much of good as the 'necessity' 
of his nature demands. It follows that fate is God's 
decree concerning things. It is conditioned by His 
knowledge of their essential nature. So whatever fate 
decrees is decreed by means of the thing itself. Even 
God cannot give man either more or less of certain 
qualities than he actually possesses. In other words, 
even God cannot perform a miracle that would violate 
the laws that have their being in Him. 

When we consider Ibn 'Arabl's doctrine of free will 
together with his statements on the nature of good and 
evil, we find that he is far from being a predeterminist. 
Though everything is determined by the inner laws 
governing the nature of the particular agent, it does not 
follow that the agent is cognisant of those laws. He has to 
act in almost complete ignorance of them: in other 
words, he acts as though the 'predetermined' character 
of his 'choice' were absent. At the same time, if he wishes 


to lead a life of Reality, he will strive for the positive or 
that which has true being. Thus, however much the 
nature of his choice and the outcome of his actions 
might be determined by his inner laws, he will act as 
though he were a free agent, and he will even act 
'morally', however little conventional morality may be 
his incentive. 


Ibn 'Arab! devotes a great deal of thought to mystical 
experiences and the the 'mechanism' within them. The 
usual Sufi term for 'union' with God is f and 9 (passing 
away, or annihilation). But not all Sufis agree on its 
meaning, nor on the meaning of its opposite pole, the 
term baqa\ or enduring. Most of the Sufis before Ibn 
* ArabI use the word fanff to describe a purely subjective 
state. They agree that in fanff consciousness of the 
phenomenal world is lost; that fund 9 leads to a gradual 
unification with God ; and that it involves a giving up of 
all personal desires, and resignation to the will of God. 
But, as Dr Affifi points out (op. cit., p. 139), with the 
exception of Al-Qushayri, no Sufi defines fand 9 or baqff 
as clear psychological states : the one as 'abandonment 
of the phenomenal', the other as 'concentration of the 
Divine and spiritual'. As Al-Qushayri says (in his 
Risalah, p. 32), 'the two states together are like a lover's 
absorption in the beloved'. Practically all other Sufi 
statements on f and 9 were vague. 

Ibn 'Arab! was not only a Sufi but also a philosopher, 
whose intellectual capacities were second to none in 
Muslim thought. In his views on f and 9 he disagrees not 
only with most Sufis but also with those Western 
mystics who describe a state corresponding to fand 9 . 
How can even a mystic, he asks, 'die to self, and yet be 
conscious of God? Consciousness (irrespective of its 

object) implies continuation of self. A passing away of 
self cannot mean anything but sleep. In such a state, 
'the mystic is neither with his "self 5 nor with his "Lord" ; 
he is asleep, he is unaware'. Ibn e Arabi dismisses as 
ignorance the assumption that the mystic has become 
God or died to himself. 

Ibn * Arab! considers/an**' from both a mystical and a 
metaphysical aspect. In a mystical sense, fanff is a 
passing away of ignorance and a becoming aware of the 
essential oneness of the whole. It is realization of one's 
non-existence as form (phenomenon). This, he claims, 
can be achieved only intuitively. In a metaphysical 
sense, fanff is a passing away of the forms of the pheno- 
menal world and continuation of the one universal 
essence. It is the disappearance of form at the moment 
of the manifestation of God in another form or, as he 
puts it, 'the disappearance of a form is its fanff at the 
moment of the manifestation of God in another form'. 1 
It can be said then (on the basis of Ibn c Arabi's, and the 
atomists', doctrine of the world as being in a constant 
process of creation, that is, of destruction and recreation) 
thatfanff is catching the infinitesimal moment between 
the annihilation of one Divine Attribute and the emer- 
gence of a new Attribute. (What Ibn 'Arab! appears to 
mean is that, since Divine Attributes, by their very 
nature, exist in time, only the 'instant' between them 
belongs to eternity the dimension of pure essence. 
And so it is only then that the timelessness offand' can 
be reached.) 

In his endeavour to give an objective assessment of 
fand\ Ibn 'Arabi delineates it as a gradual process 
which he divides into seven stages. These are as follows : 

i. Passing away, from sin. This Ibn 'Arab! does not 
interpret in the usual Sufi manner as the abandonment 

. 230. 


of all sin, but as a realization that all actions are right 
(not in a moral sense but as coming from God). That 
which is sin, is to regard one's actions as coming from 

2. Passing away from all actions in the realization 
that God is the agent of all actions. 

3. Passing away from all attributes of the 'form' in 
the realization that they all belong to God. As Ibn 
'Arab! puts it; c God sees Himself in you through your 
own eye and, therefore, He really sees Himself: this is 
the meaning of the passing away of attributes.' 1 

4. Passing away from one's own personality in the 
realization of the non-existence of the phenomenal self, 
and the endurance (baqff] of the eternal substance 
which is its essence. 

5. Passing away from the whole world in the reali- 
zation of the real aspect which is at the bottom of the 

6. Passing away from all that is other than God, even 
from the act of passing away (fane? al-fand 9 ). The mystic 
ceases to be conscious of himself as contemplator, God 
being both the contemplator and the object of the con- 
templation. (This is very different from the common 
Sufi view of the disappearance of consciousness which 
Ibn 'Arab! defines as mere sleep.) 

7. Passing away from all Divine attributes. The 
universe ceases to be the 'effect of a cause' and becomes 
a c Reality in appearance' (Haqqfl guhur). This seventh 
stage represents the fullest realization of the oneness of all 
things, andmustbe the final aim of all mystical endeavour. 

It may be objected that Ibn 'Arabi tries in vain to 
give an intellectually acceptable explanation of the 
mystical experience, since such an experience is 
essentially incommunicable. It must, however, be 

l Fuftif, p. ,198. 


conceded that no individual experience that involves 
quality and not merely quantity is communicable 
except by approximation. No one has ever been able to 
convey to others the essence of the feeling of being in 
love, or of the sensation of plunging headlong into icy 
water. All communication is effected by symbols, 
whether verbal, mathematical or of any other nature. 
Though the symbols used by a mystic differ more pro- 
foundly from the experience they symbolize than do 
most symbols from their respective experience, the 
difference between the two kinds of symbols is not 
fundamental. If we wish to communicate a mystical 
experience, we can do it only by employing symbols 
similar to those we employ when communicating any 
kind of qualitative experience. These symbols, being 
media belonging to a plane different from the plane of 
the things they symbolize, must needs distort the truth 
of the experience. It may well be that a mystical ex- 
perience sweeps through the different stages as tabulated 
by Ibn ' Arab! as though in a flash, and that his detailed 
tabulation is too complex and artificial to explain it. It 
may seem too particularized and intellectual, but it 
contributes to a clearer understanding of the mystical 

Summing up, we might say that for Ibn 'ArabI the 
goal offand* is*the attainment of true knowledge by the 
passing away of everything phenomenal, that is, every- 
thing other than God. Attainment of such knowledge 
can be equated with awareness of God. This, however, 
must not be interpreted as becoming God. Rather is it 
God's recognizing Himself through, and within the 
medium of man. 


No other Muslim thinker has dealt more thoroughly 


with the doctrine of the Logos than has Ibn * Arabi. The 
Logos doctrine not necessarily always under that 
name plays an important part in Islamic philosophy. 
In their preoccupation with it Muslim thinkers based 
themselves inevitably on Plotinus. To some extent Ibn 
'Arab! did likewise. Yet, in his hands, that doctrine 
assumes its own peculiar character. Incidentally, it 
forms one of the main subjects of his Fusus. 

For Ibn 'Arabi the Logos is the creative, animating 
and rational principle and, as such, Reality of Realities. 
It is the inward aspect of the Godhead and the Godhead 
is its ou t tward aspect. It is God's consciousness and, as 
such, contains all the ideas of existing (or potential) 
objects, without, however, in itself, having multiplicity. 
It is through the Logos that the world is brought into 
manifestation. Since the world manifests its perfection, 
it, too, must be, and indeed is, perfect. Besides being the 
principle of Divine creativeness, the Logos naturally 
has rationality. In fact it is through the Logos that God 
becomes conscious of Himself. For even in the case of 
God, thought is a function not of the thinker as a whole 
but of His mind. 

Now, according to Ibn e Arab!, the Divine conscious- 
ness reaches its supreme point in the Perfect Man. So it 
is in the Perfect man that God knows Himself perfectly. 
It is to Him that God says (according to a hadith): 
'I have not created a creature dearer to me than thee. 
With thee I give and with thee I take, and with thee I 
punish.' Evidently Ibn 'Arabi's Logos represents the 
'agent' through whom God can emerge from His 
absoluteness, His unknowableness (and, in a sense, 
unknowingness) into manifestation. 

So far Ibn ' Arabi's doctrine would seem to differ but 
little from that of either Philo or Plotinus. Where he 
completely parts company with his Greek predecessors 


is in his interpretation of the manifested Logos. Who is 
this Perfect Man, for him? It is the Prophet Muham- 
mad. Does this mean that Ibn 'Arab! takes over the 
Christian doctrine of Incarnation, and assigns to 
Muhammad the status of Jesus in Christian dogma? 
Such a deification of Muhammad would, of course, be 
regarded in Islam as polytheism. However unorthodox 
Ibn 'Arab! might be, he was not likely to propound a 
doctrine that would have cleared the way for what 
Muslims consider to be an essential dualism (if not 
worse) in Christianity. But then his Logos-Muhammad 
is not the man Muhammad from Mecca but Muham- 
mad as the active principle of Divine knowledge, as the 
spiritual (and not phenomenal) head of the hierarchy 
of sainthood and prophethood. 

Seeds of a Logos doctrine were sown in the Qur'an 
itself. In a number of instances the term ruh (spirit) and 
kalimah (word) are employed to denote a Logos concept, 
as e.g. in Surah iv, 169: 'Verily the Messiah, Jesus the 
son of Mary, is but the Apostle of God, and His Word 
which He cast into Mary and a spirit from Him/ On 
another occasion, Jesus is described as God's word : The 
Messiah, Jesus son of Mary, was only the messenger of 
God, and His word that He committed to Mary.' In his 
Fusus, Ibn 'Arab! calls every prophet a logos but not the 
Logos. Saints and prophets are, in his view, the perfect 
instruments of the universal Logos. But while they in- 
dividually manifest this or that particular aspect of the 
Logos, Muhammad alone unites in himself all these 

Particularly interesting is our philosopher's inter- 
pretation of the difference between the Logos (Muham- 
mad) and mankind to which Adam another aspect of 
the Logos stands in a somewhat similar relation to that 
existing between Muhammad and other saints. In fact 


Muhammad and Adam are for Ibn 'Arab! practically 
identical. But while in the phenomenal world Muham- 
mad is the inward aspect of Adam (Humanity), in the 
world to come, that is the spiritual, Adam will be the 
inward aspect and Muhammad the outward of the same 
Reality, i.e. the Logos. 

Now it must be repeated that Ibn 'Arab! does not 
identify the Logos with the earthly person of the Prophet 
but with the Spirit 'of Muhammad, of which the man 
from Mecca and all the prophets, including Moses, 
Abraham and Jesus, were individual manifestations. 
(Though by no means indentical, that relationship is 
somewhat similar to that between Jesus of Nazareth and 
Jesus Christ as the incarnation of God the Father.) The 
entity Muhammad, combining in itself both the Spirit 
of Muhammad and Muhammad the man, is for Ibn 
'Arab! the link between the eternal and the temporal, 
the Real and the phenomenal. While Muhammad the 
man was born, was active, and died in time, the Spirit 
of Muhammad exists in all eternity. It is identical with 
the First Intellect (Haqiqat al-Haqa'iq). It is the 'deposi- 
tor' (mulqi) of the logoi (kalimdt) of the entire world, and, 
as such, identical with the Holy Spirit (Ruh). Muham- 
mad is, thus, the Perfect Man and, as such, the most 
perfect manifestation of God who Himself is Absolute 

While every human being is potentially a microcosm, 
only the Perfect Man is an actual microcosm which 
manifests all Divine perfections. Only in him are united 
all that is manifestable and all the manifestations that, 
otherwise, exist only separately, whether in a spiritual 
or phenomenal state. Though Ibn 'Arab! does not 
actually say so, he almost leaves us under the impression 
that the Perfect Man (as realized in Muhammad) 
surpasses the Godhead in perfection, for he alone is not 


merely spiritual perfection but equally its phenomenal 
manifestation. But such an impression would be wrong, 
for it would suggest (if only by implication) some sort 
of duality between Godhead and the Perfect Man. 
Indeed Ibn 'Arabi stresses that the Perfect Man is 'to 
God as the eye-pupil is to the eye . . . and through him 
God beholds His creatures'. 1 

While there are many similarities between Ibn 
* Arabi's Logos doctrine and corresponding doctrines in 
Christianity, it would be wrong to deduce that the 
former derives from the latter. Christian Logos concep- 
tions are based on the idea of the Incarnation which 
Ibn 'Arab! utterly rejects. His Spirit of Muhammad is 
not a second Person in the Godhead : it is God Himself 
viewed from a particular aspect. Furthermore, the God 
of Christianity is spirit, is love, while Ibn 'Arabfs God 
is beyond all attributes 2 and acts and reveals Himself 
only through a particular Agent whom he calls the 
Spirit of Muhammad. The difference is far more than 
merely a semantic one. Paradoxically, it might be said 
that while the God of Christianity is everything and yet 
becomes Incarnate (in the person of Christ), Ibn 
'Arabi's God, while nothing but pure essence that acts 
through an 'agent', does not require an incarnation. 
While the God of both Christianity and Islam created 
the universe and is the Creator, Ibn 'Arabfs God 
manifests Himself in the infinite forms of the universe. 

It might be asked why Ibn * Arabi should have spent 
so much time and effort upon evolving so complex a 
doctrine of the Logos? We can only assume that, like so 
many philosophers before him, he found it impossible 
to conceive of creation, that is, the relationship between 

s 1 FufOf f p. i p. 

1 The word attribute* is used here in its common sense and not in the 
specific sense in which Ibn * Arab! uses it when he refers to Divine Names 
becoming Divine Attributes. 


God and the universe, without some 'hierarchical* 
system. Hierarchy is inherent in every ordered system. 
It must needs dominate the macrocosm as well as the 
microcosm. No man could function properly without 
organizing his various functions in some inner heir- 
archy. Thus he will not put the whole of his physical 
energy into picking up a pin, just as he will not expend 
the whole of his emotions for a minor pleasure or a 
minor irritation. An innate hierarchical system within 
him instinctively makes him assign certain duties to 
certain inner 'agents' rather than employ the whole of 
himself for each one of them. Likewise, God does not 
act (or manifest Himself) in toto in the greatest as well 
as the least significant of His manifestations. He will 
assign specific agents for specific functions. Hence the 
acceptance in most religions of archangels, angels, 
spirits, and so on. 

A hierarchical system is of course the basis of most 
Muslim doctrines of creation as it was of those of the 
Neo-platonists. But whereas their system implies 
duality (God on the one hand, and His emanations 
(or creatures), with the succession of Universal Reason, 
Spirits of Spheres, the phenomenal world, and so on, on 
the other), Ibn 'Arabi's system shows no such duality. 
It might be said that while their heirarchy is a vertical 
one, beginning with God at the top and reaching matter 
at the bottom, Ibn 'Arabfs system is a centrifugal one 
or, rather, one in which all the hierarchies remain 
within the circle. They are merely the different modes, 
the inner and outer manifestation of one Reality. That 
Reality might be said both to act from a centre and to be 
all-embracing. The doctrines of the philosophers only 
pretended to solve the problem of duality between a 
Unitarian God and a universe of multiplicity and 
imperfections, and they did it by the use of such terms 


as 'emanation' instead of 'creation', 'necessity' of God's 
nature instead of God's 'will', and so forth. Al-Ghazali 
appears to have solved the problem by accepting the 
simpler Quranic doctrine of creation. In actual fact he 
left the intellectual solution in the air. Ibn 'Arab! 
would seem to be the only one who solved the problem 
both from the mystical and the philosophical points of 
view; that is, in so far as such a problem can ever be 
solved intellectually, and the solution be expressed 
through the imperfect medium of language. 

We might perhaps summarize Ibn 'Arabi's Logos 
doctrine in the following manner: 

Logos is Reality of Realities, first Manifestation of 
the Absolute; Logos is Reality of Muhammad, not the 
man of Mecca, but Muhammad the principle or the 
Spirit of Muhammad; the Logos- Muhammad unites in 
himself all the prophets who, in turn, are minor logoi; 
the Logos-Muhammad had been manifesting himself in all 
the genuine prophets long before Muhammad of 
Mecca was born. 

Each individual prophet manifests but one parti- 
cular 'Name' of God, whereas the Logos-Muhammad, the 
Seal of the Prophets, manifests all His names; the 
Logos-Muhammad is the step from the Godhead to the 
phenomenal universe; it is the link between the eternal 
and the phenomenal. 

And since Ibn 'Arab! approaches the Logos problem 
from more aspects than one, we might conclude by 
saying that: in its metaphysical aspect the Logos is 
Reality of Realities; in its mystical aspect the Logos is 
Reality of Muhammad; in its human aspect the Logos 
is the Perfect Man. Naturally all the three are identical, 
as a man remains the same, irrespective of whether we 
consider him as a spiritual, biological, intellectual, 
racial, social or any other entity. 



Divine mercy and divine punishment run like a thread 
through the Qur'an, and thus heaven and hell play an 
important part in Muslim doctrine. Whatever else the 
Qur'an might be, it most certainly is a book of the most 
pervasive moral implications. By no stretch of the 
imagination can the same be said of Ibn 'Arabi's 
doctrine. In a scheme such as his, there is little room for 
orthodox morality. In view of this, it is surprising to 
find that he speaks of both heaven and hell and of the 
ultimate effects of moral and immoral actions. 

Unlike some of the Sufis, especially Al-Muhasibi and 
Al-Ghazali, Ibn 'Arab! does not attempt to tell us what 
we ought to do; how to behave in order to avoid hell 
and to deserve heaven. Now morality, it has been 
argued earlier, is primarily a matter of degree and thus 
of quantity. Ibn 'Arab! is seldom concerned with 
quantity, with the substantial aspects of the universe. 
His concern must needs be the essence, the true reality 
of, and behind, phenomena. And essence, unlike sub- 
stance, is not a matter of quantity but of quality. Yet 
since heaven and hell depend upon human behaviour 
in a moral, that is primarily a quantitative, sense, it 
would be difficult to equate them with the domain of 
pure essence. 

In spite of all this, Ibn 'Arab! not only speaks of 
heaven and hell, but he does so in the detailed and 
luxuriant vocabulary of orthodox Islamic literature, 
especially of the Isma'ilians and Carmathians. But, as 
is to be expected, when he speaks of heaven he means 
something very different from the orthodox heaven, 
and his hell has not much in common with the hell of 
the learned 'ulama'. While the language he employs 
in describing these two religions is designed to mollify 
the orthodox, the meaning behind it is his own. It is in 


fact the geography of heaven and hell he even provides 
a diagram of both these areas that left so deep a mark 
upon Dante, and was taken over by him in the Divine 
Comedy. 1 But, having almost overwhelmed us with 
traditional descriptions of Paradiso and Inferno, Ibn 
'Arab! assures us that these are mere words, and he 
invites us to interpret them as we like or, rather, as he 

Inevitably the agonies of hell are for Ibn 'Arab! 
nothing but symbols, and the existence of both heaven 
and hell in their conventional meaning is denied by 
him. He regards both as purely subjective states of the 
soul. His hell is nothing but the realization by the self 
of its own enslavement, which is selfhood. One Arabic 
word for hell, jahannam, he interprets as distance, or 
being-away from God. In consequence, to be in hell 
means to imagine that a real gulf exists between man 
and God, and to be oblivious of the fact of their oneness. 

Jannah, the Arabic word for heaven, or paradise, he 
interprets as deriving from janna, to conceal. Jannah is 
thus for him the Divine essence in which all multiplicity 
is concealed; consequently, the realization of absolute 
unity. In the one case the soul, being the slave of a 
self that stands between it and the Divine, imagines 
itself to live in separation from God in a world of 
multiplicity. In the other case it enjoys the delights of 
'living' in a state of complete unity. Since Ibn 'Arabi 
insists upon the ultimate salvation of every soul, there 
is in the last analysis really little difference between his 
heaven and his hell. The only difference between the 
damned whose existence he seems to accept merely 
to be on the safe side with the orthodox and the blessed 
is that while the latter will behold the beatific vision, 
for the former that vision will be too veiled to be 

1 Sec Islam and the Divine Comedy, by Asin y Palacios. 


recognized. But, finally, the veils will be removed even 
from their eyes, and even they will share that experience. 
Ibn ' Arabi's heaven and hell appear to have much in 
common with those of Ibn Sina. Yet he is more charit- 
able than the great Persian doctor. It would, however, 
be wrong to attribute his attitude to sentimentality or 
to some whim on his part. His heaven and hell form a 
logical part of a doctrine which cannot possibly admit 
duality even in after-life. But this essential non-duality 
of heaven and hell is not 'manufactured' artificially. It 
forms a logical part of it. How could there be the 
opposites of 'real' hell and 'real' heaven in a system in 
which all things, both good and evil, have their being 
in God or, rather, in their own laws which, however, 
derive from God? Had Ibn 'Arab! tried to conform to 
orthodoxy and accepted the traditional heaven and hell, 
then indeed the unity of his doctrine would have dis- 
integrated into dualism. 


In the Qur'an, it is the quality of Divine mercy rather 
than of Divine love that predominates. Love implies 
reciprocity, and it would be presumptuous of man to 
assume that his love of God must impel his Maker to 
love him in return. In?ufLdoctrines, of course, love of 
man and God. can be^said to fbrmjthe centrarcoreTIbn 
'AraEf is no exception to that rule. But His interpreta- 
tion of the man-God love relationship differs from that 
of the other Sufis. He agrees that the basis of all religions 
is the worship of God. But could man worship anything 
without loving the object of his worship ? Without love 
worship is impossible. In fact, for Ibn 'Arabi, love is 
that which pervades all beings and holds them together. 
However much love may differ in its forms and expres- 
sions, it is fundamentally one, for it represents the 


Divine Essence. Since, however, the highest object of 
man's love is God (or Divine Essence), that object, too, 
is love. In other words: that which, in man, turns 
lovingly towards God is, too, of the Divine Essence. As 
Ibn 'Arab! puts it: C I swear by the reality of Love that 
Love is the cause of all love,' and: 'Were it not for Love 
(residing) in the heart, Love (God) would not be 
worshipped.' 1 Thus Ibn * Arabl's inevitable formulation 
becomes : love loves love. This, of course, is the natural 
climax of a doctrine of absolute non-dualism. This 
climax also denotes the dynamic and living quality in 
the idea and the function of love. 

It must follow that for Ibn c Arab! true worship im- 
plies neither the verbal invocation of the Divine name 
(as by the orthodox in their prayers) nor even the heart's 
concentration on God (as by the Sufis). True worship 
means for him contemplating God lovingly in all His 
aspects from the most spiritual to the most material, 
in short, in everything that exists, including the con- 
templator himself. This, however, is far from the 
triumphant and, some would say, vainglorious cry of 
Al-Hallaj, 'Am al-Haqq\ 

Since the fundamental factor underlying all Divine 
manifestation is love, we would naturally assume that, 
for Ibn * Arabi, love is the supreme purpose of existence: 
an end than which no other can be of equal worth. And 
yet he tells us that love as such has no intrinsic value ! 
There is something even beyond love, something that is 
love's inmost 'cause'. That something is Beauty. 

It comes almost as an anticlimax to find a thinker 
who probes so deeply into the very heart of existence 
elevating an aesthetic quality even if it be the highest 
to the supreme position in the Divine scheme. Yet 
even in this unexpected conclusion Ibn 'Arab! is still 

, pp. 387 & 390, qu. by Affifi, p. 151. 

6 4 

perfectly consistent. For is it not true that love without 
the incentive of beauty is a mere abstraction? Do we 
not love only what we consider to be beautiful? The 
standards of beauty may differ, and that which one 
person deems beautiful another one may regard as 
ugly. What matters is that for the lover even if for 
no one else the object of his love must be beautiful. 
He may be in love with a person regarded by all others 
as hideous. But if he loves that person, he does so because 
there is some element of beauty in that person not 
necessarily physical to evoke his love. We may be in 
love with a reptile or any other creature or object 
generally regarded as repellent, because even such a 
creature might well be endowed with beauty visible to 
us but concealed from others. Rembrandt falls in love 
with ugly old Jews in Amsterdam or with the darkness 
of shadows, and Utrillo with the peeling plaster on 
houses of mean Parisian streets on a grey winter even- 
ing; because both artists found beauty in such unlikely 
models. And because they are deeply in love with those 
hidden aspects of beauty, they succeed in making that 
beauty manifest to all. 

Man loves God, says Ibn 'Arabl, because God is 
beautiful. (Al-Farabi discerned God's beauty in the 
beauty of the order permeating the God-created 
universe.) Indeed it is inconceivable that we could love 
God without considering Him beautiful. An 'ugly' god 
might be feared, but he cannot be loved. We might 
offer him our sacrifices, but never our love. God, on the 
other hand, loves His creatures man and all creation 
because these, too, are beautiful. Whence do they derive 
beauty? Clearly, it is God's beauty that is the source of 
every kind of beauty, whether spiritual, intellectual qr 
physical, even though God's own beauty as such must 
of necessity be beyond all form. 
E 65 

There still remains the question: why should God 
love the visible beauty as contained in the Visible' 
forms of the universe? Ibn 'ArabI tells us that God 
loves it because in the beauty of created forms His 
own 'form-less' beauty, in fact His very being, is 
reflected. 'Does God not say,' Ibn 'Arabi exclaims, 'O 
David, My yearning for them is greater than their 
yearning for me?' 1 The iyth century English author, 
James Howell, seems to have perceived a similar truth 
when, in his book Instructions for Forreine Travell (1642), 
he wrote : 'By looking downward one can see the stars 
in the water, but he who looks only upward cannot see 
the water in the stars.' Without the water the stars 
could not contemplate their own beauty. 

Beauty and the love it inspires are thus the cause of 
all creation. They are equally the cause of the return 
of all creatures to God in the double movement of their 
urge for Him and His urge for them. 




ONE of the main obstacles facing the English-speaking 
student of Ibn 'Arabi's ideas is the scarcity of trans- 
lations. The pioneer in this field was Professor R. A. 
Nicholson of Cambridge who, to the present day, 
remains the chief exponent of Ibn 'Arab! in the English- 
speaking world. Though he spared neither time nor 
ingenuity on this task, even he admitted finding him- 
self often on the brink of defeat. For he found that 
rendering Ibn 'Arab! into a Western language was a 
labour almost beyond the capacities of any scholar. 
'The vast bulk of Ibnu '!-' Arabi's writings,' he declared, 
'his technical and scholastic terminology, his recondite 
modes of thought, and the lack of method in exposition 
have, until recently, deterred European Orientalists 
from bestowing on him the attention which he de- 
serves.' 1 On another occasion Nicholson declared that 
' the theories set forth in the Fusus are difficult to under- 
stand and even more difficult to explain'. In spite of 
these difficulties he persevered, and it is due mainly to 
him that we have some Ibn 'Arab! texts in English. 
The bulk of the texts quoted in the following pages is 
his work. 


The following texts are taken from Ibn * Arabi's 

Fufusu 'l-Hikam ( The Bezels of Divine Wisdom) in the 

1 Reynold A. Nicholson, A Literary History of the Arabs. Cambridge, 
University Press, 1907. 

6 7 

translation of the late R. A. Nicholson. Compared to 
the Futuhdt al-Makkiyya, the Fusus is a very short work, 
consisting of twenty-seven chapters, each of which 
bears the name of one of the prophets. In spite of its 
comparative brevity, it has always been considered as 
quite as important as the Futukat y and has persistently 
been commented upon by Muslim philosophers and 
mystics. Unfortunately, it is a very difficult book to 
understand and R. A. Nicholson admits that the 
original text is almost beyond an intelligible rendering 
into English. The author's language is so technical, 
figurative and involved/ he confesses, 'that a literal 
reproduction would convey very little.' Nevertheless 
Professor Nicholson perservered, in the hope that 'by 
collecting and arranging illustrative passages' and by 
availing himself 'of the commentator's aid' he might 
be able to 'throw some light on a peculiarly recondite 
phase of mystical scholasticism 5 . 

The first passage deals with the nature of God (as 
does, in fact, the FUJUS in general), in its true, or 
absolute sense, that is, His essence (*aynuhu, from *qyn, 
essence or identity). As has already been implied, God's 
essences (cfyan) are the same both in Him and in His 
creatures, His creative word (kun, 'be') merely actual- 
izing their existence, according to the law inherent 
within the creatures themselves, that is, within their 
essence. But only to the mystic is it given to see that God 
is one and all, and one is all, a typical Ibn 'Arab! 
formulation which, while baffling at first, becomes quite 
simple once we accept the non-dualistic nature of his 

Sublimity (*uluw] belongs to God alone. The 
essences (a'yan) of things are in themselves non- 
existent, deriving what existence they possess from 


God, who is the real substance (*qyri) of all that 
exists. Plurality consists of relations (nisab), which 
are non-existent things. There is really nothing 
except the Essence, and this is sublime (transcendent) 
for itself, not in relation to anything, but we predicate 
of the One Substance a relative sublimity (transcen- 
dence) in respect of the modes of being attributed to 
it: hence we say that God is (huwa) and is not (Id 
huwa). Kharraz, 1 who is a mode of God and one of 
His tongues, declared that God is not known save by 
His uniting all opposites in the attribution of them 
to him (Kharraz). 2 He is the First, the Last, the 
Outward, the Inward ; He is the substance of what is 
manifested and the substance of what remains latent 
at the time of manifestation; none sees Him but 
Himself, and none is hidden from Him, since He is 
manifested to Himself and hidden from Himself; and 
He is the person named Abu Sa'id al-Kharraz and 
all the other names of originated things. The inward 
says 'No' when the outward says 'I', and the outward 
says 'No* when the inward says T, and so in the case 
of every contrary, but the speaker is One, and He is 
substantially identical with the hearer. . . . The 
Substance is One, although its modes are different. 
None can be ignorant of this, for every man knows 
it of himself, 8 and Man is the image of God. 

Thus things became confused and numbers 
appeared, by means of the One, in certain degrees. 4 

J Abu Sa'id al-Kharraz (ob. A.D. 890) was a well-known ufi of 

1 The mystic cannot know God unless he is illuminated by all the 
Divine attributes, so that he becomes a haqq. 

8 Every individual is conscious of having different faculties and 

4 One in the first degree is one, in the second ten, in the third a 
hundred, in the fourth a thousand, and each of these degrees comprises 
simple and complex numbers, just as species comprise individuals and 
genera species. 


The One brought number into being, and number 
analysed the One, and the relation of number was 
produced by the object of numeration. ... He that 
knows this knows that the Creator who is declared to 
be incomparable (munazzah) is the creatures which 
are compared (mushabbah] with Him by reason of 
His manifesting Himself in their forms albeit the 
creatures have been distinguished from the Creator. 
The Creator is the creature, and the creature is the 
Creator: all of this proceeds from One Essence; nay, 
He is the One Essence and the many (individualized) 
essences. . . . Who is Nature and Who is all that is 
manifested from her? 1 We did not see her diminished 
by that which was manifested from her, or increased 
by the not-being of aught manifested that was other 
than she. That which was manifested is not other than 
she, and she is not identical with what was manifested, 
because the forms differ in respect of the predication 
concerning them: this is cold and dry, and this is hot 
and dry : they are united by dryness but separated by 
cold and heat. Nay, the Essence is (in reality) Nature. 
The world of Nature is many forms in One Mirror; 
nay, One Form in diverse mirrors. 2 Bewilderment 
arises from the difference of view, but those who 
perceive the truth of what I have stated are not 

In the following passages Ibn 'Arabi discusses the 
nature and function of man in relation to God : 

When God willed in respect of His Beautiful 

1 Real Being, when limited by a universal individualizatipn, is Nature, 
from which are manifested secondary and tertiary individualizations, 
viz., natural bodies of various kinds. 

1 Nature may be regarded either as all the particular forms in which 
Reality reveals itself or as the universal form of Reality revealing itself in 
all particular forms. 


Names (attributes), which are beyond enumeration, 
that their essences (a*yan) or, if you wish you may 
say 'His essence ( c qynukuY should be seen, He caused 
them to be seen in a microcosmic being (kawnjdmi*) 
which, inasmuch as it is endowed with existence, 1 
contains the whole object of vision, and through 
which the inmost consciousness (sin) of God be- 
comes manifested to him. This He did, because the 
vision that consists in a thing's seeing itself by means 
of itself is not like its vision of itself in something else 
that serves as a mirror for it: therefore God appears' 
to Himself in a form given by the place in which He 
is seen (i.e. the mirror), and He would not appear 
thus (objectively) without the existence of this place 
and His epiphany to Himself therein. God had 
already brought the universe into being with an 
existence resembling that of a fashioned soulless body, 
and it was like an unpolished mirror. 2 Now, it belongs 
to the Divine decree (of creation) that He did not 
fashion any place but such as must of necessity 
receive a Divine soul, which God has described 
as having been breathed into it; and this denotes 
the acquisition by that fashioned form of capacity 
to receive the emanation (fayd), i.e., the perpetual 
self-manifestation (tajalli) which has never ceased 
and never shall. It remains to speak of the re- 
cipient (of the emanation). The recipient proceeds 
from naught but His most holy emanation, for the 
whole affair (of existence) begins and ends with 

1 i.e., relative existence, wherein Absolute Being is reflected. 

8 The world of things was brought into existence before the creation of 
Man, in so far as every Divine attribute (universal) logically implies the 
existence of its corresponding particular, which is the Essence individua- 
lized by that relation, whereas Man alone is the Essence individualized 
by all relations together. Since the universe could not manifest the unity 
of Being until Man appeared in it, it was like an unpolished mirror or a 
body without a soul. 


Him: to Him it shall return, even as from Him it 
began. 1 

The Divine will (to display His attributes) entailed 
the polishing of the mirror of the universe. Adam 
(the human essence) was the very polishing of that 
mirror and the soul of that form, and the angels are 
some of the faculties of that form, viz., the form of the 
universe which the Sufis in their technical language 
describe as the Great Man, for the angels in relation 
to it are as the spiritual and corporeal faculties in the 
human organism 2 . . . . The aforesaid microcosmic 
being is named a Man (insari) and a Vicegerent 
(khalifa). He is named a Man on account of the 
universality of his organism and because he com- 
prises all realities. 8 Moreover, he stands to God as 
the pupil (insdri), which is the instrument of vision, 
to the eye; and for this reason he is named a Man. By 
means of him God beheld His creatures and had 
mercy on them. 4 He is Man, the originated (in his 
body), the eternal (in his spirit); the organism 
everlasting (in his essence), the Word that divides 
and unites. The universe was completed by his 
existence, for he is to the universe what the bezel is 
to the seal the bezel whereon is graven the signature 

1 The 'most holy emanation' (d-faydu 'l-aqdas) is the eternal mani- 
festation of the Essence to itself. This emanation is received by the essences 
of things (al-cfyanu l-thdbita) in the plane of unity-in-plurality (wdhidiyya), 
i.e., in the Divine knowledge where no distinctions exist. From one point 
of view, God is never revealed except to Himself; from another, He is 
revealed to 'recipient* modes of Himself, to each in accordance with its 

* I have omitted a few lines here, to the effect that Man unites all 
aspects of God the oneness of the Essence, the plurality of the Divine 
attributes, and the world of nature. This truth, the author adds, cannot 
be apprehended save by mystical perception. R.A.N. 

1 i.e., the etymological explanation of the name insan is that Man 
jnfnis QTyu'anis (knows or is familiar with) all things: the three Arabic 
words are derived from the same root. R.A.N. 

4 By bringing them into existence. 


that the King seals on his treasuries. 1 Therefore He 
named him a Vicegerent, because he guards the 
creatures (of God) just as the King guards his 
treasuries by sealing them; and so long as the King's 
seal remains on them, none dares to open them save 
by his leave. God made him His Vicegerent in the 
guardianship of the universe, and it continues to be 
guarded whilst this PERFECT MAN is there. Dost 
not thou see that when he shall depart (to the next 
world) and his seal shall be removed from the 
treasury of this world, there shall no more remain 
in it that which God stored therein, but the 
treasure shall go forth, and every type shall 
return to its (ideal) antitype, and all existence 
shall be transferred to the next world and sealed 
on the treasury of the next world for ever and 

This was the knowledge of Seth, and it is his know- 
ledge that replenishes every spirit that discourses on 
such a theme except the spirit of the Seal (the Per- 
fect Man), to whom replenishment comes from God 
alone, not from any spirit; nay, his spirit replenishes 
all other spirits. And though he does not apprehend 
that of himself during the time of his manifestation in 
the body, yet in respect of his real nature and rank he 
knows it all essentially, just as he is ignorant thereof 
in respect of his being compounded of elements. He 
is the knowing one and the ignorant, for as the Origin 
(God) is capable of endowment with contrary 
attributes the Majestical, the Beautiful, the Inward, 
the Outward, the First, the Last so is he capable 
thereof, since he is identical (*qyri) with God, not 

1 Man's heart (qalb) bears the impression of the Greatest Name of God 
(i.e., the Essence) together with all the other Divine Names. 


other than He. 1 Therefore he knows and knows not, 
perceives and perceives not, beholds and beholds not. 2 

Ibn ' Arab! further illustrates the interdependence of 
God and man, the latter acting as the eye through which 
God can see His own creation, in the following verses 
from the Fusus in which the words within brackets 
form the commentary of * Abdu '1-Razzaq al-Kashani: 

'He praises me (by manifesting my perfections and 

creating me in His form), 
And I praise Him (by manifesting His perfections 

and obeying Him). 
How can He be independent when I help and aid 

Him? (because the Divine attributes derive the 

possibility of manifestation from their human 


For that cause God brought me into existence. 
And I know Him and bring Him into existence (in 

my knowledge and contemplation of Him). 

In the following passage Ibn 'Arabi contrasts the 
finite God of religion with the infinite God of the 
mystic or, it might be said, God as beheld by even the 
most pious worshipper with God in His absoluteness, 
that is God not limited by any man's experience of Him. 

The believer praises the God who is in his form of 
belief and with whom he has connected himself. He 
praises none but himself, for his God is made by 
himself, and to praise the work is to praise the maker 

1 Man is Absolute Being limited by individualization (ta*ayyun). This 
limitation however, is negative and unreal: it consists in failure to receive 
all individualizations, to be endowed with all attributes, to be named with 
all names. In so far as Man is a reality (haqq) he is not a human creature 

*Fuftif, 39*0!. 


of it: its excellence or imperfection belongs to its 
maker. For this reason he blames the beliefs of others, 
which he would not do, if he were just. Beyond doubt, 
the worshipper of this particular God shows ignorance 
when he criticizes others on account of their beliefs. 
If he understood the saying of Junayd, 'The colour of 
the water is the colour of the vessel containing it,' 1 he 
would not interfere with the beliefs of others, but 
would perceive God in every form and in every 
belief. He has opinion, not knowledge : therefore God 
said, *I am in My servant's opinion of Me,' i.e., 'I do 
not manifest Myself to him save in the form of his 
belief.' God is absolute or restricted, as He pleases; 
and the God of religious belief is subject to limitations, 
for He is the God who is contained in the heart of 
His servant. But the absolute God is not contained by 
anything, for He is the being of all things and the 
being of Himself, and a thing is not said either to 
contain itself or not to contain itself. 2 

Our last passage from the Fusus deals in Ibn * Arabi's 
typical scholastic manner with the subject of mercy: 

Every one whom Mercy remembers is blessed, and 
there is nothing that Mercy has not remembered. 
Mercy's remembrance (dhikr) of things is identical 
with her bringing them into existence: 8 therefore 
every existent thing is an object of mercy. Do not let 
thy perception of what I say be hindered by the 
doctrine of everlasting punishment. Know, first, that 

1 i.e., God is revealed in different forms of belief according to the 
capacity of the believer. The mystic alone sees that He is One in all 
forms, for the mystic's heart (qalb) is all-receptive: it assumes whatever 
form God reveab Himself in, as wax takes the impression of the seal 
(Fufiif, 145). 

*FufUf> 282. cf. 135. 

cf. p. 98 fol. 


Mercy's bringing into existence comprises all, so that 
the pains of Hell were brought into existence by 
Mercy. Then, secondly, Mercy has an effect in two 
ways: (i) an essential effect, which is her bringing 
into existence every *ayn (individual idea) without 
regard to purpose or absence of purpose, or to what is 
congruous or incongruous, for she was beholding 
every *ayn as it existed in the knowledge of God 
before its actual existence, and therefore she saw the 
reality (haqq) 9 created in men's beliefs, as a poten- 
tially existent *ayn, and showed mercy to it by bring- 
ing it into existence (in their beliefs). Accordingly, 
we have said that the reality created in men's beliefs 
was the first object of mercy, after mercy was shown 
by bringing into existence the individual believers. 
(2) An effect produced by asking (stfal) : those who 
are veiled from the truth ask God 1 to have mercy 
upon them in their belief, but the mystics ask God 
that Mercy may subsist in them, 2 and they ask for 
mercy in God's name, saying, 'O God, have mercy 
upon us!' That which has mercy upon them is the 
subsistence of Mercy in them. 3 


Ibn ' Arabl's al-Futuhdt al-Makkyla (Cairo A.H. 1293) or 
The Meccan Revelations may be said to represent its 
author's magnum opus. It is an enormous treatise 
consisting of five hundred and sixty chapters and 
embodying the core of Ibn 'Arabi's philosophico- 
mystical doctrine. The author claims that he was com- 

1 i.e., the finite Lord (rabb) who stands in a special and different 
relation to every object of lordship (marbub) . cf. Fitfiif, 95. 

8 i.e., the true mystic prays that he may be 'illumined* with the Divine 
attribute of Mercy so as to become a raftm, which necessarily involves a 
marhum, and to know himself as a mode of the absolute God who is in 
reality both the rahim and the marhum. 

7 6 

manded to write this work on the orders of the Prophet 
Muhammad himself whom he beheld seated on a throne 
amidst angels, prophets and saints. He also claims that, 
while, on one occasion, circumambulating the Ka'ba at 
Mecca, he met a youth (symbolizing a celestial spirit) 
who revealed to him the esoteric Temple hidden to 
profane eyes, even as divine truth is hidden behind the 
veils of popular religion. Without penetrating those 
veils, man cannot perceive God's true nature. The youth 
commanded Ibn 'Arab! to record the mysteries that 
he would reveal to him. He led the philosopher into the 
Ka'ba, and, appearing to him on a three-legged steed, 
breathed into him the comprehension of all things. 

That comprehension, however, came to him only 
gradually, through a succession of different visions. 
Some of these were obtained through an ascension to 
heaven, an ascension that, both in its general plan and 
in numerous details, we find repeated in Dante's 
Divine Comedy. Ibn e Arabi's ascension proceeded through 
seven stages corresponding to the astronomical heavens 
from the Moon to Saturn. In each of these, he met the 
various prophets who revealed to him certain sets of 
mysteries. Thus in the first heaven, that of the Moon, 
Adam instructed him on the significance of the divine 
names; on changes in the material elements; on the 
generation of all living things including man. In the 
second heaven, that of Mercury, Jesus and John 
revealed to him secrets about the performance of 
miracles. In the subsequent heavens, prophets from 
Joseph and Enoch to Moses and Abraham instructed 
him in subjects ranging from the astronomical causes of 
night and day and the interpretation of dreams to the 
life hereafter. In the second part of the ascension, the 
author reached the four mystic rivers, representing the 
Pentateuch, the Book of Psalms, the Gospel and the 


Qur* an. Farther still, he penetrated to the sphere of the 
Fixed Stars in which dwelt the angelic spirits. After 
crossing the sphere of the Zodiac, he reached the stool 
upon which rest the feet of God, symbols of His justice 
and mercy. Facing the throne of God, he learned the 
mysteries of the cosmos, and, finally, beheld the utmost 
secrets of the divine essence. 

The visions obtained thanks to the help of the youth 
met outside the Ka' ba form the contents of the Futuhut. 
Ibn 'Arabi claimed that every word of that book 
reached him by supernatural means. 

The following extract from the Futuhut (iii, p. 365), 
taken from Margaret Smith's Readings from the Mystics 
of Islam (Luzac & Co., 1950), deals with the subject of 
human knowledge, or apprehension, or truth which, 
as will be remembered, has its being in Light (al-nur) : 

The veils of darkness and light, by which God is 
veiled from the world, are only what describes the 
contingent, because it is in the midst and it looks 
only to itself and it does not look to what is within the 
veil. If the veils were raised from the contingent the 
contingency would be revealed and the necessary 
and the imaginable, because the veil is raised, but the 
veils continue to be a concealment, and it must be 
so. Consider this world in regard to the raising of the 
veil, for He spoke of consuming, by the glory of His 
countenance, the creature who apprehends it and 
sometimes He says of Himself that the creatures can 
see Him and not be consumed, declaring that the 
veils are raised in the Vision, and the Vision itself is a 
veil. /The eye of His creature does not see Him,' and 
if men understood the meaning of this, they would 
know themselves, and if they knew themselves, they 
would know God : and if they really knew God, they 


would be satisfied with Him and would think about 
Him alone, not about the kingdom of the heavens 
and the earth. If, indeed, they knew the truth of the 
matter, they would realize that He is Himself the 
Essence of the kingdom of the heavens and the earth. 
If it were not for the Light, nothing at all could 
be apprehended by the mind or the senses or 
the imagination, which we also call by different 
names. According to the common folk, the name is 
given to the mind, and among the gnostics, to the 
light of perception; when you apprehend what is 
audible, you call the light which apprehends, hearing, 
and when you apprehend what is visible, you call the 
light seeing. Light involves a relationship, for appre- 
hending what is apparent. Everyone who perceives 
must have some relationship to the light, by which he 
is made able to perceive, and everything which is 
perceived has a relationship with God, Who is Light, 
that is, all which perceives and all which is perceived. 

In the following passages 1 of the Futuhdt Ibn c ArabI 
describes 'the glorious triumph of the elect': 

The blessed gather around the snow-white hill to 
await the epiphany of the Lord. As they stand, each 
in his respective grade and place and magnificently 
arrayed, a dazzling light shines forth before which 
they fall prostrate. Through their eyes into the in- 
most recesses of their bodies and souls the light 
penetrates, iso that each of the blessed becomes all 
eye and ear and sees and hears with his entire spirit, 
such is the virtue conferred on them by the light. Thus 
are they prepared for the presence of the Almighty. 

1 Quoted in Islam and the Divine Comedy t by Miguel Asin, translated by 
Harold Sunderland. London, John Murray, 1926, pp. 157-9. 


And then the Prophet appears before them, saying, 
'Prepare, then, ye chosen, for the manifestation of 
the Lord/ The three veils that enshroud the Al- 
mighty the veils of glory, majesty and power are 
drawn aside at His will, and the truth is revealed. . . . 
This vision, although in itself one and the same so 
far as the elect are concerned, has, nevertheless, 
different aspects. Those prophets, who only acquired 
their knowledge of God through the faith received 
from God Himself and did not increase that know- 
ledge by reason and contemplation, will behold the 
vision through the eye of faith. The saint whose faith 
in God was inspired by a prophet will see it through 
the mirror of that prophet. If, however, he also gained 
a knowledge of God through contemplation, then 
will he have two visions, one of science and the other 
of faith. . . . Those who obtained from God the mystic 
intuition only will occupy a grade in glory apart from 
all the other elect. To sum up, the three aspects which 
God presents to the elect in these three categories are 
graded thus: the prophets who received super- 
natural inspiration from God excel those saints who 
followed their teaching; while those who were neither 
prophets nor their disciples but simply saints and 
friends of God will, if they achieved the desired end 
by rational contemplation, be inferior in the Beatific 
Vision to the mystics, because reason, like a veil, will 
intervene between them and the Divine truth, and 
their efforts to raise it will be of no avail. In like 
manner the followers of the prophets will be unable 
to raise the veil of prophetic revelation. And so it is 
that the Beatic Vision, pure and unalloyed, will be 
the heritage exclusively of the prophets and the 
mystics who, like the prophets, received Divine 
inspiration on earth. . . . 


In the Beatic Vision God manifests Himself to the 
elect in a general epiphany, which, nevertheless, 
assumes various forms corresponding to the mental 
conceptions of God formed by the faithful on earth. 
There is, then, one single epiphany, which is 
multiple only by reason of the difference of forms in 
which it is received. The Vision impregnates the 
elect with Divine Light, each experiencing the Vision 
according to the knowledge of the Divine dogma or 
dogmas gained by him on earth. 

The Divine light pervades the beings of the elect 
and radiates from them, reflected as if by mirrors, 
on everything around them. The spiritual enjoyment 
produced by the contemplation of this reflection is 
even greater than that of the Vision itself. For, at the 
moment when they experience the Beatific Vision, 
the elect are transported and, losing all consciousness, 
cannot appreciate the joys of the Vision. Delight they 
feel, but the very intensity of the delight makes it 
impossible for them to realize it. The reflected light, 
on the other hand, does not overpower them, and they 
are thus able to participate in all its joys. . . . 

Each knows his allotted grade and seeks it as a 
child seeks its mother's breast, and iron, the lodestone. 
To occupy or even aspire to a higher grade is impos- 
sible. In the grade in which he is placed each sees the 
realization of his highest hopes. He loves his own 
grade passionately and cannot conceive that a higher 
could exist. If it were not so, heaven would not be 
heaven but a mansion of grief and bitter disillusion. 
Nevertheless, those in the superior participate in the 
enjoyment of the lower grades. 


In the following passages from Kitdb al-Ajwiba, (in 
P 81 

Margaret Smith's translation 1 ) Ibn 'Arab! deals again 
with the subject of the true nature of God, treated 
already in our first extract from the Fufiis (see pp. 68-9). 
This subject of God's One-ness and All-ness is, of course, 
of fundamental importance to Ibn 'Arabi's entire 
philosophy, and he returns to it again and again. In 
the following extract he also emphasizes the closeness, 
nay the very identity, of phenomenal existence and 
divine existence, and of God's 'dependence' upon His 
creatures. He touches here also upon another of his 
fundamental themes, namely that of the awakened 
soul's realization that it is 'no other than God'. 

He is and there is with Him no before or after, nor 
above nor below, nor far nor near, nor union nor 
division, nor how nor where nor place. He is now as 
He was, He is the One without oneness and the 
Single without singleness. ... He is the very existence 
of the First and the very existence of the Last, and the 
very existence of the Outward and the very existence 
of the Inward. So that there is no first nor last nor 
outward nor inward except Him, without those 
becoming Him or His becoming them. He is not in a 
thing nor a thing in Him, whether entering in or pro- 
ceeding forth. It is necessary that you know Him, after 
this fashion, not by learning ( 9 ilm) nor by intellect, 
nor by understanding, nor by imagination, nor by 
sense, nor by the outward eye nor by the inward eye, 
nor by perception. By Himself He sees Himself and by 
Himself He knows Himself. . . . His veil, that is, phen- 
omenal existence, is but the concealment of His 
existence in His oneness, without any attribute. . . . 
There is no other and there is no existence for any 
other, than He. ... He whom you think to be other 
1 op. cit, p. 98. 


than God, he is not other than God, but you do not 
know Him and do not understand that you are seeing 
Him. He is still Ruler as well as ruled, and Creator 
as well as created. He is now as He was, as to His 
creative power and as to His sovereignty, not requir- 
ing a creature nor a subject. . . . When He called into 
being the things that are, He was already endowed 
with all His attributes and He is as He was then. In 
His oneness there is no difference between what is 
recent and what is original : the recent is the result of 
His manifestation of Himself and the original is the 
result of His remaining within Himself. 

There is no existence save His existence. To this 
the Prophet pointed when he said: 'Revile not the 
world, for God is the world,' pointing to the fact that 
the existence of the world is God's existence without 
partner or like or equal. It is related that the Prophet 
declared that God said to Moses: 'O My servant, I 
was sick and thou didst not visit Me : I asked help of 
thee and thou didst not give it to Me,' and other like 
expressions. This means that the existence of the 
beggar is His existence and the existence of the sick is 
His existence. Now when this is admitted, it is 
acknowledged that this existence is His existence 
and that the existence of all created things, both 
accidents and substances, is His existence, and when 
the secret of one atom of the atoms is clear, the 
secret of all created things, both outward and inward, 
is clear, and you do not see in this world or the next, 
anything except God, for the existence of these two 
Abodes and their name and what they name, all of 
them are assuredly He. 

When the mystery of realizing that the mystic is 
one with the Divine is revealed to you, you will 
understand that you are no other than God and that 


you have continued and will continue , . , without 
when and without times. Then you will see all your 
actions to be His actions and all your attributes to be 
His attributes and your essence to be His essence, 
though you do not hereby become He or He you, in 
either the greatest or the least degree. 'Everything is 
perishing save His Face, 5 that is, there is nothing 
except His Face, 'then, withersoever you turn, there 
is the Face of God.' 

Just as he who dies the death of the body, loses all 
his attributes, both those worthy of praise and those 
worthy of condemnation alike, so in the spiritual 
death all attributes, both those worthy of praise and 
those to be condemned, come to an end, and in all 
the man's states what is Divine comes to take the 
place of what was mortal. Thus, instead of his 
own essence, there is the essence of God and in place 
of his own qualities, there are the attributes of God. 
He who knows himself sees his whole existence to be 
the Divine existence, but does not realize that any 
change has taken place in his own nature or qualities. 
For when you know yourself, your 'I-ness' vanishes 
and you know that you and God are one and the 


So far as I am aware, the only complete work of Ibn 
'Arab! translated into English is the Tarjumdn al- 
Ashwdq, which Prof. R. A. Nicholson published in 
191 1. 1 In his Introduction, the translator explains the 

lr The Tarjumdn At-Ashwaq, A Collection of Mystical Odes, by 
Muyi'ddin Ibn Al-Arabi. Edited from three Manuscripts with a literal 
version of the text and an abridged translation of the author's commen- 
tary thereon by Reynold A. Nicholson, M.A., Litt.D, Lecturer in 
Persian in the University of Cambridge, and formerly Fellow of Trinity 
College. Oriental Translation Fund, New Series. Vol. XX London: 
Royal Asiatic Society, 22 Albcmarle Street. 1911. 

8 4 

reasons that prompted him to undertake his task. 'The 
fact', he says, 'that this book is accompanied by a 
commentary, in which the author himself explains the 
meaning of almost every verse, was the principal 
motive that induced me to study it; its brevity was a 
strong recommendation. . . .' But he also warns the 
reader of the book's 'obscurity of style and the strange- 
ness of its imagery'. As its redeeming features he 
mentions, however, its 'many noble and striking 
thoughts' and its passages 'of real beauty'. 

When Ibn ' Arab! first brought his collection of odes 
'Interpreter of Desires' before his public, these were 
unaccompanied by any commentary. But the undis- 
guisedly love character, not to say erotic element of the 
odes shocked many of their readers who apparently 
failed to recognize their true mystical nature. In 
consequence, Ibn 'Arab! brought out a new edition of 
his poems, accompanied by a new preface and by the 
commentaries that, ever since, have formed an integral 
part of the volume. His purpose in writing the poems as 
well as the later commentaries emerges from his 
Prefaces from which the following quotations are taken: 

'Makinu'ddin had a young daughter, called Nizam 
and surnamed 'Aynu'sh-Shams wa'1-Baha, who was 
exceedingly beautiful and was renowned for her 
asceticism and eloquent preaching. Ibn 'Arab! observed 
the nobility of her nature, which was enhanced by the 
society of her father and aunt.' (The latter, Fakhru'n- 
Nisa bint Rustam, was a lady of very advanced age and 
great devotion who had shared with Ibn 'Arab! her 
readings of the Apostolic Traditions.) 'He celebrated 
her in the poems contained in this volume, using the 
erotic style and vocabulary, but he could not express 
even a small part of the feelings roused in him by the 


recollection of his love for her in past times. . . . ' 

The author continues : * Whenever I mention a name 
in this book I always allude to her, and whenever I 
mourn over an abode I mean her abode. In these 
poems I always signify Divine influences and spiritual 
revelations and sublime analogies, according to the 
most excellent way which we (Sufis) follow . . . God 
forbid that readers of this book and of my other poems 
should think of aught unbecoming to souls that scorn 
evil and to lofty spirits that are attached to the things 
of Heaven! Amen: ... I have used the erotic style and 
form of expression because men's souls are enamoured 
of it, so that there are many reasons why it should 
commend itself.' 

In spite of his warning to the reader of the nature and 
purpose of his style a style employed by most Sufi 
poets Ibn 'Arab! found himself attacked, and ulti- 
mately felt constrained to add commentaries to the 
poems, commentaries that, in most cases, are much 
longer than the poems themselves. In a new Preface, 
he explained the purpose of his commentaries in the 
following words : 

C I wrote this commentary on the Dlwdn entitled 
Tarjumdn al-Ashwdq, which I composed at Mecca, at 
the request of my friend al-Mas' ud Abu Muhammad 
Badr b. ' Abdallah al-Habashi al-Khadim and al-Walad 
al-Barr Shamsu'ddm Isma'il b. Sudakin an-Nuri in 
the city of Aleppo. He (Shamsu'ddin) had heard some 
theologian remark that the author's declaration in the 
preface to the Tarjumdn was not true, his declaration, 
namely, that the love-poems in this collection refer to 
mystical sciences and realities. 'Probably', said the 
critic, *he adopted this device in order to protect him- 
self from the imputation that he, a man famous for 


religion and piety, composed poetry in the erotic style. 5 
Shamsu'ddm was offended by his observations and 
repeated them to me. Accordingly, I began to write the 
commentary at Aleppo, and a portion of it was read 
aloud in my lodgings in the presence of the above- 
mentioned theologian and other divines. ... I finished 
it with difficulty and in an imperfect manner, for I was 
in haste to continue my journey. . . . When my critic 
heard it he said to Shamsu'ddm that he would never in 
future doubt the good faith of any Sufis who should 
assert that they attached a mystical signification to the 
words used in ordinary speech; and he conceived an 
excellent opinion of me and profited (by my writings). 
This was the occasion of my explaining the Tarjumdn.* 

For a reader used to the erotic character of so much 
in Sufi poetry the mystical content of Ibn 'Arabi's odes 
will reveal itself without undue difficulty. It is quite 
obvious that Nizam was for the poet what Beatrice was 
for Dante, namely an embodiment of divine love and 
beauty, a symbol and a spiritual ideal. Yet though the 
reader may instantly sense the mystical nature of the 
poems, he would hardly seem likely to find the key to 
their true meaning without Ibn 'Arabfs guidance. In 
fact the poet admitted that in certain of his odes the 
mystical meaning was not quite clear even to himself. 
This is hardly surprising considering the fact that he 
claimed to have written them in a state of ecstasy. 
Though it cannot be asserted that the commentaries 
always clarify the sense of the odes, without them, even 
the reader accustomed to Sufi terminology might well 
find himself defeated by the obscurity and complexity 
of the poems. 



1 . Would that I were aware whether they knew what 

heart they possessed ! 

2. And would that my heart knew what mountain-pass 

they threaded ! 

3. Dost thou deem them safe or dost thou deem them 


4. Lovers lose their way in love and become entangled. 


1. They', i.e. the Divine Ideas of which the hearts 
(of gnostics) are passionately enamoured, and by which 
the spirits are distraught, and for whose sake the godly 
workers perform their works of devotion. 

'What heart' : he refers to the perfect Muhammadan 
heart, because it is not limited by stations. Nevertheless, 
it is possessed by the Divine Ideas, for they seek it and it 
seeks them. They cannot know that they possess it, for 
they belong to its essence, inasmuch as it beholds in 
them nothing except its own nature. 

2. 'What mountain-pass they threaded', i.e. what 
gnostic's heart they entered when they vanished from 
mine. 'Mountain-pass' signifies a 'station', which is 
fixed, in contrast to a 'state', which is fleeting. 

3. The Divine Ideas, qua Ideas, exist only in the 
existence of the seer; they are 'dead' in so far as the 
seer is non-existent. 

4. Lovers are perplexed between two opposite things, 


for the lover wishes to be in accord with the Beloved and 
also wishes to be united with Him, so that if the Beloved 
wishes to be separated from the lover, the lover is in a 


1. On the day of parting they did not saddle the full- 

grown reddish-white camels until they had 
mounted the peacocks upon them. 

2. Peacocks with murderous glances and sovereign 

power: thou wouldst fancy that each of them was 
a Bilqis on her throne of pearls. 

3. When she walks on the glass pavement thou seest 

a sun on a celestial sphere in the bosom of Idris. 

4. When she kills with her glances, her speech restores 

to life, as tho' she, in giving life thereby, were 

5. The smooth surface of her legs is (like) the Tora in 

brightness, and I follow it and tread in its foot- 
steps as tho' I were Moses. 

6. She is a bishopess, one of the daughters of Rome, 

unadorned: thou seest in her a radiant Goodness. 

7. Wild is she, none can make her his friend; she has 

gotten in her solitary chamber a mausoleum for 

8. She has baffled everyone who is learned in our 

religion, every student of the Psalms of David, 
every Jewish doctor, and every Christian priest. 

9. If with a gesture she demands the Gospel, thou 

wouldst deem us to be priests and patriarchs and 

10. The day when they departed on the road, I pre- 
pared for war the armies of my patience, host 
after host. 


11. When my soul reached the throat (i.e. when I was 

at the point of death), I besought that Beauty and 
that Grace to grant me relief, 

12. And she yielded may God preserve us from her 

evil, and may the victorious king repel Iblis ! 

13. I exclaimed, when her she-camel set out to depart, 

*O driver of the reddish-white camels, do not 
drive them away with her!' 


1. 'The full-grown camels', i.e. the actions inward 
and outward, for they exalt the good word to Him who 
is throned on high, as He hath said : 'And the good deed 
exalts it' (Kor. xxxv, 11). 'The peacocks' mounted on 
them are his loved ones: he likens them to peacocks 
because of their beauty. The peacocks are the spirits of 
those actions, for no action is acceptable or good or 
fair until it hath a spirit consisting in the intention or 
desire of its doer. He compares them to birds inasmuch 
as they are spiritual and also for the variety of their 

2. 'With murderous glances and sovereign power': 
he refers to the Divine wisdom which accrues to a man 
in his hours of solitude, and which assaults him with 
such violence that he is unable to behold his personality, 
and which exercises dominion over him. 

'A Bilqis on her throne of pearls' : he refers to that 
which was manifested to Gabriel and to the Prophet 
during his night journey upon the bed of pearl and 
jacinth in the terrestrial heaven, when Gabriel alone 
swooned by reason of his knowledge of Him who 
manifested Himself on that occasion. The author calls 
the Divine wisdom 'Bilqis' on account of its being the 
child of theory, which is subtle, and practice, which is 


gross, just as Bilqis was both spirit and woman, since 
her father was of the Jinn and her mother was of 

3. The mention of Idris alludes to her lofty and 
exalted rank. 'In the bosom of Idris', i.e. under his 
control, in respect of his turning her wheresoever he 
will, as the Prophet said: 'Do you bestow wisdom on 
those who are unworthy of it, lest ye do it a wrong.' 
The opposite case is that of one who speaks because he 
is dominated by his feeling, and who is therefore under 
the control of an influence. In this verse the author 
calls attention to his puissance in virtue of a prophetic 
heritage, for the prophets are masters of their spiritual 
feelings, whereas most of the saints are mastered by 
them. The sun is joined to Idris because the sun is his 
sphere, and the Divine wisdom is described as 'walking' 
(instead of 'running', etc.) because of her pride and 
haughtiness, and because she moves in the feelings of 
this heart and changes from one feeling to another with 
a sort of absolute power. 

4. 'She kills with her glances': referring to the 
station of passing away in contemplation. 'Her speech 
restores to life': referring to the completion of the 
moulding of man when the spirit was breathed into him. 

JShe is compared to Jesus in reference to Kor. xxxviii, 
72, 'And I breathed into him of My spirit', or Kor. 
xvi, 42, 'That We say to it "Be", and it is'. 

5. 'Her legs' : referring to Bilqis and the glass pave- 
ment (Kor. xxvii, 44). 

'Is like the Tora in brightness 5 , because the Tora is 
derived from the phrase, 'the stick produced fire'. The 
four faces of the Tora, namely, the four Books (the 
Koran, the Psalms, the Pentateuch, and the Gospel), 
correspond to the fourfold light mentioned in Kor. 
xxiv, 35. 


6. 'One of the daughters of Rome': this wisdom, 
being of the race of Jesus is described as belonging to 
the Roman Empire. 'Unadorned', i.e. she is of the 
essence of unification and without any vestige of 
adornment from the Divine Names, yet there shines 
from her the 'radiance* of Absolute Goodness, viz. the 
burning splendours which, if God were to remove the 
veils of light and darkness, would consume the glories 
of His face. 

7. 'Wild is she, none can make her his friend', be- 
cause contemplation of the Essence is a passing away, in 
which, as as-Sayyari said, there is no pleasure. She is 
'wild', inasmuch as noble souls desire to seize her, but 
she does not show friendship to them, because no 
relation exists between them and her. 

'In her solitary chamber', i.e. in the heart. Her 
solitude is her looking on herself, for God says, 'Neither 
My earth nor My heaven contains Me, but I am con- 
tained by the heart of My servant who is a believer' ; 
and since the heart which contains this essential wisdom 
of the race of Jesus is bare and empty of all attributes, it 
is like a desert and she is like a wild animal. Then he 
mentions the marble tomb of the Roman emperors, 
that such a mausoleum may remind her of death, which 
is the severance of union, and make her shun famili- 
arity with the created world on account of this 

8. The four Books (the Koran, the Psalms, the Tora, 
and the Gospel) are here indicated by the mention of 
those who study and expound them. All the sciences 
comprised in the four Books point only to the Divine 
Names and are incapable of solving a question that 
concerns the Divine Essence. 

9. If this spiritual being, forasmuch as she is of the 
race of Jesus, appeals to the Gospel by way of justifying 


it in anything which men's thoughts have falsely im- 
puted to it, we humble ourselves before her and serve 
her no less devotedly than do the heads of the Church, 
because of her majesty and sovereign might. 

10. 'Upon the road', i.e. the spiritual ascen- 

11. 'To grant me relief : he means what the Prophet 
meant by his saying, 'Lo, the breath of the Merciful 
comes to me from the quarter of al-Yaman.' The writer 
begs that the world of breaths may continually be 
wafted from her to him along with the spiritual feelings. 
The Arabs refer to this in their poetry, for they speak 
of giving greetings and news to be delivered by the 
winds when they blow. 

12. 'May God preserve us from her evil!' He refers to 
the Tradition 'I take refuge with Thee from Thy- 

'The victorious king', i.e. thoughts of knowledge and 
Divine guidance. 

'Iblis', i.e. the thought of becoming one with God, for 
this is a hard station, and few who attain to it escape 
from the doctrines of an incarnation. It is the station 
indicated in the Tradition, 'I am his ear and his eye', 

13. He says, 'When this spiritual essence desired to 
quit this noble heart on account of its (the heart's) 
return from the station denoted by the words, "I have 
an hour which I share with none save my Lord," to the 
task imposed upon it of presiding over the phenomenal 
worlds, for which purpose its gaze is directed towards 
the Divine Names, the lofty aspiration on which this 
spiritual essence was borne to the heart, took its depar- 
ture.' He calls this aspiration 'her she-camel', and the 
drivers of such aspirations are the angels who approach 
nearest to God. 


1 . My longing sought the Upland and my affliction the 

Lowland, so that I was between Najd and Tihama. 

2. They are two contraries which cannot meet: hence 

my disunion will never be repaired. 

3. What am I to do? What shall I devise? Guide me O 

my censor, do not affright me with blame! 

4. Sighs have risen aloft and tears are pouring over my 


5. The camels, footsore from the journey, long for their 

homes and utter the plaintive cry of the frenzied 

6. After they have gone, my life is naught but annihila- 

tion. Farewell to it and to patience ! 


1. 'The Upland', referring to God on His throne. 

2. 'They are two contraries 5 , etc. : he says, 'Inasmuch 
as the spiritual element in man is always governing the 
body, it can never contemplate that which is uncom- 
posed apart from its body and independently, as some. 
Sufis and philosophers and ignorant persons declare.' 
Hence the writer says, 'my disunion will never be re- 
paired', i.e., 'I cannot become united with Him who is 
pure and simple, and who resembles my essence and 
reality. Therefore longing is folly, for this station is 
unattainable, but longing is a necessary attribute of 
love, and accordingly I cease not from longing.' 

3. 'My censor', i.e. the blaming soul. 

5. 'The camels', i.e. the actions or the lofty thoughts 
since, in my opinion, such thoughts belong to the 
class of actions on which the good words mount to the 
throne of God. They 'long for their homes', i.e. for the 

G 97 

Divine Names from which they proceeded and by 
which they are controlled. 

6. 'My life is naught but annihilation': he says, 
'When the lofty thoughts ascend to their goal I remain 
in the state of passing away from passing away, for I 
have gained the life imperishable which is not followed 
by any opposite.' Accordingly, he bids farewell to 
patience and to the mortal life, because he has quitted 
the sensible world. 


1. When they departed, endurance and patience 

departed. They departed, although they were 
dwelling in the core of my heart. 

2. I asked them where the travellers rested at noon, and 

I was answered, Their noonday resting-place is 
where the shih and the ban trees diffuse a sweet 

3. Then I said to the wind, 'Go and overtake them, for 

they are biding in the shade of the grove, 

4. And bear to them a greeting from a sorrowful man in 

whose heart are sorrows because he is separated 
from his people.' 


I. 'They departed', i.e. the Divine Ideas. 'They were 
dwelling in the core of my heart' : the Divine Ideas have 
no relationship except with their object, which is God; 
and God dwells in the heart, according to the Tradition 
'Neither My earth nor My heaven contains Me, but I 
am contained in the heart of My servant who believes.' 
Since, however, no manifestation was vouchsafed to 
him at this moment, the Ideas, being objects of vision, 


disappeared, notwithstanding that God was in his heart. 

2. 'I asked them*, i.e. the gnostics and the real 
existences of the past Shaykhs who were my guides on 
the mystic Way. 

Their noonday resting-place', etc., i.e. they reposed 
in every heart where the signs of longing appeared, for 
shih denotes inclination (mqyl) and ban absence (bttd). 

3. *I said to the wind', i.e. I sent a sign of longing 
after them in the hope of causing them to return to me. 

'In the shade of the grove', i.e. amongst the arak 
trees, whereof the wood is used as a tooth-stick. He 
refers to the Tradition 'The use of the tooth-stick 
purifies the mouth and pleases the Lord', i.e. the Divine 
Ideas are dwelling in the abode of purity. 


1 . As I kissed the Black Stone, friendly women thronged 

around me; they came to perform the circumam- 
bulation with veiled faces. 

2. They uncovered the (faces like) sunbeams and said 

to me, 'Beware ! for the death of the soul is in thy 
looking at us. 

3. How many aspiring souls have we killed already at 

al-Muhassab of Mina, beside the pebble-heaps, 

4. And in Sarhat al-Wadi and the mountains of Rama 

and Jam' and at the dispersion from c Arafat! 

5. Dost not thou see that beauty robs him who hath 

modesty, and therefore it is called the robber of 
virtues ? 

6. Our trysting-place after the circumambulation is at 

Zamzam beside the midmost tent, beside the rocks. 

7. There everyone whom anguish hath emanciated is 

restored to health by the love-desire that perfumed 
women stir in him. 


8. When they are afraid they let fall their hair, so that 
they are hidden by their tresses as it were by robes 
of darkness.' 


1. 'As I kissed the Black Stone 5 , i.e. when the Holy 
Hand was outstretched to me that I might take upon it 
the Divine oath of allegiance, referring to the verse 
'Those who swear fealty to thee swear fealty to God; 
the hand of God is over their hands' (Kor. xlviii, 10). 

'Friendly women', i.e. the angels who go round the 
throne of God (Kor. xxxix, 75). 

2. 'The death of the soul', etc.: these spirits say, 'Do 
not look at us, lest thou fall passionately in love with us. 
Thou wert created for God, not for us, and if thou wilt 
be veiled by us from Him, He will cause thee to pass 
away from thy existence through Him, and thou wilt 

3. 'Have we killed', i.e. spirits like unto us, for the 
above-mentioned angels who go round the Throne 
have no relationship except with pilgrims circumam- 
bulating the Ka'ba. 

5. 'Beauty robs him who hath modesty', since the 
vision of Beauty enraptures whosoever beholds it. 

'The robber of virtues', i.e. it takes away all delight 
in the vision of beauty from him who acts at the bidding 
of the possessor of this beauty; and sometimes the 
beauteous one bids thee to do that which stands between 
thee and glorious things, inasmuch as those things are 
gained by means of hateful actions: the Tradition 
declares that Paradise is encompassed by things which 
thou dislikest. 

6. 'At Zamzam', i.e. in the station of the life which 
thou yearnest for. 


'Beside the midmost tent', i.e. the intermediate world 
which divides the spiritual from the corporeal world. 

'Beside the rocks', i.e. the sensible bodies in which the 
holy spiritual beings take their abode. He means that 
these spirits in these imaginary forms are metaphorical 
and transient, for they vanish from the dreamer as soon 
as he wakes and from the seer as soon as he returns to 
his senses. He warns thee not to be deceived by the 
manifestations of phenomenal beauty, inasmuch as all 
save God is unreal, i.e. not-being like unto thyself; 
therefore be His that He may be thine. 

7. In the intermediate world whosoever loves these 
spiritual beings dwelling in sensible bodies derives 
refreshment from the world of breaths and scents 
because the spirit and the form are there united, so 
that the delight is double. 

8. When these phantoms are afraid that their 
absoluteness will be limited by their confinement in 
forms, they cause thee to perceive that they are a veil 
which hides something more subtle than what thou 
seest, and conceal themselves from thee and quit these 
forms and once more enjoy infinite freedom. 


1. They (the women) mounted the howdahs on the 

swift camels and placed in them the (damsels 
like) marble statues and full moons, 

2. And promised my heart that they should return; 

but do the fair promise anything except deceit? 

3. And she saluted with her henna-tipped fingers for 

the leave-taking, and let fall tears that excited 
the flames (of desire). 

4. When she turned her back with the purpose of 

making for al-Khawarnaq and as-Sadir. 

5. I cried out after them, 'Perdition!' She answered 

and said, 'Dost thou invoke perdition ? 

6. Then invoke it not only once, but cry "Perdition !" 

many times.' 

7. O dove of the arak trees, have a little pity on me! 

for parting only increased thy moans, 

8. And thy lamentation, O dove, inflames the longing 

lover, excites the jealous, 

9. Melts the heart, drives off sleep, and doubles our 

desires and sighing. 

10. Death hovers because of the dove's lamentation, 

and we beg him to spare us a little while, 

11. That perchance a breath from the zephyr of Hajir 

may sweep towards us rain-clouds, 

12. By means of which thou wilt satisfy thirsty souls; 

but thy clouds only flee farther than before. 

13. O watcher of the star, be my boon-companion, and 

O wakeful spy on the lightning, be my nocturnal 
comrade ! 

14. O sleeper in the night, thou didst welcome sleep 

and inhabit the tombs ere thy death. 

15. But hadst thou been in love with the fond maiden, 

thou wouldst have gained, through her, happi- 
ness and joy, 

1 6. Giving to the fair (women) the wines of intimacy, 

conversing secretly with the suns, and flattering 
the full moons. 


i. 'The camels' are the human faculties, 'the how- 
dahs' are the actions which they are charged to perform, 
'the damsels' in the howdahs are the mystical sciences 
and the perfect sorts of knowledge. 

3. He says, 'This Divine subtlety, being acquired and 


not given directly, is subject to a change produced by 
contact with phenomena' ; this change he indicates by 
speaking of 'her henna-tipped fingers', as though it 
were the modification of unity by a kind of association. 
Nevertheless, her staying in the heart is more desirable 
than her going, for she protects the gnostic as long as 
she is there. 

'And let fall tears', etc.: she let loose in the heart 
sciences of contemplation which produced an intense 

. 4. 'Al-Khawarnaq and as-Sadir', i.e. the Divine 

5. Terdition!' i.e. death to the phenomenal world 
now that these sublime mysteries have vanished from it. 

'Dost thou invoke perdition?' i.e. why dost thou not 
see the face of God in everything, in light and darkness, 
in simple and composite, in subtle and gross, in order 
that thou mayst not feel the grief of parting. 

6. 'Cry "Perdition!" many times' (cf. Kor. xxv, 15), 
i.e. not only in this station but in every station in which 
thou art placed, for thou must bid farewell to every one 
of them, and thou canst not fail to be grieved, since, 
whenever the form of the Truth disappears from thee, 
thou imaginest that He has left thee; but He has not 
left thee, and it is only thy remaining with thyself that 
veils from thee the vision of that which pervades the 
whole of creation. 

7. 'O dove of the arak trees': he addresses holy 
influences of Divine pleasure which have descended 
upon him. 

'Have a little pity on me!' i.e. pity my weakness and 
inability to attain unto thy purity. 

'For parting only increased thy moans': he says, 
'Inasmuch as thy substance only exists through and in 
me, and I am diverted from thee by the dark world of 


phenomena which keeps me in bondage, for this cause 
thou art lamenting thy separation from me/ 

8. 'And thy lamentation 5 , etc., i.e. we who seek the 
unbounded freedom of the celestial world should weep 
more bitterly than thou. 

'Excites the jealous' : jealousy arises from regarding 
others, and he who beholds God in everything feels no 
jealousy, for God is One; but since God manifests 
Himself in various forms, the term 'jealousy' is appli- 
cable to Him. 

10. 'Death', i.e. the station in which the subtle 
principle of Man is severed from its governance of this 
dark body for the sake of the Divine subtleties which 
are conveyed to it by the above-mentioned holy 

11. 'Hajir' denotes here the most inaccessible veil of 
the Divine glory. No phenomenal being can attain to 
the immediate experience thereof, but scents of it blow 
over the hearts of gnostics in virtue of a kind of amorous 

'Rain-clouds', i.e. sciences and diverse sorts of know- 
ledge belonging to the most holy Essence. 

13. 'O watcher of the star', in reference to keeping in 
mind that which the sciences offer in their various 

'O wakeful spy on the lightning' : the lightning is a 
locus of manifestation of the Essence. The author says, 
addressing one who seeks it, 'Our quest is the same, be 
my comrade in the night.' 

14. This verse may be applied either to the heedless 
or to the unconscious. 

15. 'The fond maiden', i.e. the Essential subtlety 
which is the gnostic's object of desire. 

'Through her': although She is unattainable, yet 
hrough her manifestation to thee all that thou hast 


is baptized for thee, and thy whole kingdom is dis- 
played to thee by that Essential form. 

1 6. 'Conversing secretly with the suns', etc., in 
reference to the Traditions which declare that God will 
be seen in the next world like the sun in a cloudless sky 
or like the moon when she is full. 


1 . My lovesickness is from her of the lovesick eyelids : 

console me by the mention of her, console me ! 

2. The grey doves fluttered in the meadows and 

wailed : the grief of these doves is from that which 
grieved me. 

3. May my father be the ransom of a tender playful 

girl, one of the maidens guarded in howdahs, 
advancing swayingly among the married women ! 

4. She rose, plain to see, like a sun, and when she 

vanished she shone in the horizon of my heart. 

5. O ruined abodes at Rama! How many fair damsels 

with swelling breasts have they beheld! 

6. May my father and I myself be the ransom of a 

God-nurtured gazelle which pastures between 
my ribs in safety ! 

7. The fire thereof in that place is light: thus is the 

light the quencher of the fires. 

8. O my two friends, bend my reins aside that I may 

see the form of her abode with clear vision. 

9. And when ye reach the abode, descend, and there, 

my two companions, weep for me, 

10. And stop with me a little while at the ruins, that we 

may endeavour to weep, nay, that I may weep 
indeed because of that which befell me. 

11. Passion shoots me without arrows, passion slays me 

without a spear. 


12. Tell me, will ye weep with me when I weep beside 

her? Help me, oh help me to weep! 

13. And rehearse to me the tale of Hind and Lubna and 

Sulayma and Zaynab and c Inan ! 

14. Then tell me further of Hajir and Zarus, give me 

news of the pastures of the gazelles ! 

15. And mourn for me with the poetry of Qays and 

Lubna, and with Mayya and the afflicted 
Ghaylan ! 

1 6. Long have I yearned for a tender maiden, endowed 

with prose and verse, having a pulpit, eloquent, 

1 7. One of the princesses from the land of Persia, from 

the most glorious of cities, from Isfahan. 

1 8. She is the daughter of ' Iraq, the daughter of my 

Imam, and I am her opposite, a child of Yemen. 

19. O my lords, have ye seen or heard that two oppo- 

sites are ever united ! 

20. Had you seen us at Rama proffering each other 

cups of passion without fingers, 

2 1 . Whilst passion caused sweet and joyous words to be 

uttered us without a tongue, 

22. You would have seen a state in which the under- 

standing disappears Yemen and 'Iraq em- 
bracing together. 

23. Falsely spoke the poet who said before my time 

(and he has pelted me with the stones of his 

24. *O thou who givest the Pleiades in marriage to 

Suhayl, God bless thee! how should they meet? 

25. The Pleiades are in the north whenever they rise, 

and Suhayl whenever he rises is in the south.' 


i . 'Her of the lovesick eyelids' : he means the Presence 

1 06 

desired by gnostics. Although she is too sublime to be 
known and loved, she inclines toward them in mercy 
and kindness and descends into their hearts by a sort of 

'Console me by the mention of her' : there is no cure 
for his malady but remembrance. He says 'Console me* 
twice, i.e. by my remembrance of God and by God's 
remembrance of me (cf. Kor. ii, 147). 

2. 'The grey doves', i.e. the spirits of the intermediate 

'And wailed', because their souls cannot join the 
spirits which have been released from imprisonment in 
this earthly body. 

3. 'A tender playful girl', i.e. a form of Divine wis- 
dom, essential and holy, which fills the heart with joy. 

'One of the maidens guarded in howdahs' : she is a 
virgin, because none has ever known her before; she 
was veiled in modesty and jealousy during all her 
journey from the Divine Presence to the heart of this 

'The married women', i.e. the forms of Divine 
wisdom already realized by gnostics who preceded him. 

4. 'And when she vanished', etc., i.e. when she set in 
the world of evidence she rose in the world of the 

5. 'O ruined abodes', i.e. the bodily faculties. 

'At Rama', from (he sought), implying that their 
search is vain. 

'How many fair damsels', etc., i.e. subtle and Divine 
forms by which the bodily faculties were annihilated. 

7. The natural fires are extinguished by the heavenly 
light in his heart. 

8. 'The form of her abode', i.e. the Presence from 
which she issued forth. He seems to desire the station of 
Divine contemplation, since wisdom is not desired 


except for the sake of that to which it leads. 

9. 'Weep for me', because this Presence annihilates 
everyone who attains unto her and beholds her. 

10. That I may weep', etc., i.e. for the loss of the loved 
ones and of everything except the ruins of their abode. 

n. 'Without arrows', i.e. from a distance. 

12. 'Without a spear', i.e. near at hand. 

13. Hind was the mistress of Bishr, and Lubna of 
Qays b. al-Dharih; 'Inan was a slave-girl belonging to 
an-Natifi; Zaynab was one of the mistresses of 'Umar 
b. Abi Rabi* a ; Sulayma was a slave girl whom the author 
had seen: he says that she had a lover. He interprets 
the names of all these women mystically, e.g. Hind is 
explained as an allusion to the Fall of Adam, and 
Zaynab as signifying removal from the station of 
saintship to that of prophecy. 

1 6. He describes this essential knowledge as endowed 
with prose and verse, i.e. absolute in respect of her 
essence, but limited in respect of possession. 

'A pulpit', i.e. the ladder of the Most Beautiful 
Names. To climb this ladder is to be invested with the 
qualitites of these Names. 

'Eloquent', referring to the station of Apostleship. 

The author adds: 'I allude enigmatically to the 
various kinds of mystical knowledge which are under 
the veil of an-Nizam, the maiden daughter of our 

17. 'One of the princesses', on account of her 
asceticism, for ascetics are the kings of the earth. 

1 8. "Iraq' indicates origin, i.e. this knowledge comes 
of a noble race. 

'A child of Yemen', i.e. in respect of faith and wisdom 
and the breath of the Merciful and tenderness of heart. 
These qualities are the opposite of what is attributed to 
'Iraq, viz. rudeness and severity and infidelity, whereas 

1 08 

the opposite of 'Iraq itself is not Yemen, but the 
Maghrib, and the opposite of Yemen itself is not * Iraq, 
but Syria. The antithesis here is between the qualities 
of the Beloved and those of the lover. 

19. 'Two opposites', referring to the story of Junayd, 
when a man sneezed in his presence and said, 'God be 
praised!' (Kor. i, i). Junayd said, completing the verse, 
'Who is the Lord of created beings.' The man replied, 
'And who is the created being, that he should be 
mentioned in the same breath with God?' 'O my 
brother,' said Junayd, 'the phenomenal, when it is 
joined to the Eternal, vanishes and leaves no trace 
behind. When He is there, thou art not, and if thou art 
there, He is not.' 

22. 'Yemen and 'Iraq', etc., i.e. the identification of 
the qualities of Wrath and Mercy. He refers to the 
saying of Abu Sa* id al-Kharraz, who on being asked 
how he knew God, answered, 'By His uniting two 
opposites, for He is the First and the Last and the 
Outward and the Inward' (Kor. Ivii, 3). 

24. 'The Pleiades', i.e. the seven attributes demon- 
strated by scholastic philosophers. 

'Suhayl', i.e. the Divine Essence. 

25. 'In the north', i.e. in the world of phenomena. 
The Divine attributes are manifested in Creation, but 
the Divine Essence does not enter into Creation. 


1. Between al-Naqa and La* la* are the gazelles of 


2. Grazing there in a dense covert of tangled shrubs, 

and pasturing. 

3. New moons never rose on the horizon of that hill 

4. But I wished, from fear, that they had not risen. 


5- And never appeared a flash from the lightning of 
that fire-stone 

6. But I desired, for my feeling's sake, that it had not 


7. O my tears, flow ! O mine eye, cease not to shed tears ! 

8. O my sighs, ascend ! O my heart, split ! 

9. And thou, O camel-driver, go slowly, for the fire is 

between my ribs. 

10. From their copious flow through fear of parting 

my tears have all been spent, 

1 1. So that, when the time of starting comes, thou wilt 

not find an eye to weep. 

12. Set forth, then, to the valley of the curving sands, 

their abode and my death-bed 

13. There are those whom I love, beside the waters of 


14. And call to them, 'Who will help a youth burning 

with desire, one dismissed, 

15. Whose sorrows have thrown him into a bewilder- 

ment which is the last remnant of ruin? 

1 6. O moon beneath a darkness, take from him some- 

thing and leave something, 

17. And bestow on him a glance from behind yonder 


1 8. Because he is too weak to apprehend the terrible 


19. Or flatter him with hopes, that perchance he may 

be revived or may understand. 

20. He is a dead man between al-Naqa and La e la e . 

2 1 . For I am dead of despair and anguish, as though I 

were fixed in my place. 

22. The East Wind did not tell the truth when it 

brought cheating phantoms. 

23. Sometimes the wind deceives when it causes thee to 

hear what is not (really) heard, 


1 . 'Between al-Naqa and La' la* , etc., i.e. between the 
hill of white musk, on which is the vision of God, and 
the place of frenzied love for Him, are diverse sorts of 
knowledge connected with the stations of abstraction. 

2. 'In a dense covert of tangled shrubs', i.e. the world 
of phenomenal admixture and interdependence. 

3. 'New moons', i.e. Divine manifestations. 

4. 'From fear', i.e. from fear that the beholder might 
pass away in himself from himself, and that his essence 
might perish, whereas his object is to continue sub- 
sistent through God and for God; or from fear that he 
should imagine the manifestation to be according to the 
essential nature of God in Himself (which is impossible), 
and not according to the nature of the recipient. The 
former belief, which involves the comprehension of 
God by the person to whom the manifestation is made, 
agrees with the doctrine of some speculative theo- 
logians, who maintain that our knowledge of God and 
Gabriel's knowledge of Him and His knowledge of 
Himself are the same. How far is this from the truth! 

5. 'A flash from the lightning of that fire-stone', i.e. 
an inanimate, phenomenal, and earthly manifestation. 

9. 'O camel-driver', i.e. the voice of God calling the 
aspirations to Himself. 

'The fire', i.e. the fire of Love. 

lo-n. He says that his eyes have been melted away 
by the tears which he shed in anticipation of parting. 

12. 'To the valley of the curving sands', i.e. the 
station of mercy and tenderness. 

'My death-bed', because the Divine mercy causes 
him to pass away in bewilderment. 

13. 'Beside the waters of al-Ajra' : because this mercy 
is the result of painful self-mortification, 


14- 'One dismissed', i.e. one who has come to him- 
self again after contemplation, according to the tradi- 
tion that God says, after having shown Himself to His 
servants in Paradise, 'Send them back to their 

1 6. 'A darkness', i.e. the forms in which the mani- 
festation takes place. 

'Take from him something', etc., i.e. take from him 
whatever is related to himself, and leave whatever is not 
related to himself, so that only the Divine Spirit may 
remain in him. 

21. Tor I am dead of despair and anguish', i.e. I 
despair of attaining the reality of that which I seek, and 
I grieve for the time spent in a vain search for it. 

'As though I were fixed in my place', i.e. I cannot 
escape from my present state, inasmuch as it is without 
place, quantity, and quality, being purely transcend- 

22. 'Cheating phantoms', i.e. the similes and images 
in which God, who has no like, is presented to us by the 
world of breaths. 


1. May my father be the ransom of the boughs sway- 

ing to and fro as they bend, bending their tresses 
towards the cheeks! 

2. Loosing plaited locks of hair; soft in their joints and 


3. Trailing skirts of haughtiness; clad in embroidered 

garments of beauty; 

4. Which from modesty grudge to bestow their loveli- 

ness; which give old heirlooms and new gifts; 

5. Which charm by their laughing and smiling 

mouths; whose lips are sweet to kiss; 

6. Whose bare limbs are dainty; which have swelling 

breasts and offer choice presents; 

7. Luring ears and souls, when they converse, by their 

wondrous witchery; 

8. Covering their faces for shame, taking captive 

thereby the devout and fearing heart; 

9. Displaying teeth like pearls, healing with their 

saliva one who is feeble and wasted ; 

10. Darting from their eyes glances which pierce a 

heart experienced in the wars and used to 

1 1 . Making rise from their bosoms new moons which 

suffer no eclipse on becoming full; 

12. Causing tears to flow as from rain-clouds, causing 

sighs to be heard like the crash of thunder. 

13. O my two comrades, may my life-blood be the 

ransom of a slender girl who bestowed on me 
favours and bounties ! 

14. She established the harmony of union, for she is our 

principle of harmony: she is both Arab and 
foreign; she makes the gnostic forget. 

15. Whenever she gazes, she draws against thee tren- 

chant swords, and her front teeth show to thee a 
dazzling levin, 

1 6. O my comrades, halt beside the guarded pasture of 

Hajir! Halt, halt, O my comrades, 

17. That I may ask where their camels have turned, for 

I have plunged into places of destruction and 

1 8. And scenes known to me and unknown, with a 

swift camel which complains of her worn hoofs 
and of deserts and wildernesses, 

19. A camel whose flanks are lean and whose rapid 

journeying caused her to lose her strength and 
the fat of her hump, 
H 113 

20. Until I brought her to a halt in the sandy tract of 

Hajir and saw she-camels followed by young ones 
at al-Uthayl. 

21. They were led by a moon of awful mien, and I 

clasped him to my ribs for fear that he should 

22. A moon that appeared in the circumambulation, 

and while he circumambulated me I was not 
circumambulating anyone except him. 

23. He was effacing his footprints with the train of his 

robe, so that thou wouldst be bewildered even 
if thou wert the guide tracing out his track. 


1. 'My father', i.e. Universal Reason. 

'The boughs', i.e. the Attributes which bear Divine 
knowledge to gnostics and mercifully incline towards 

2. 'Locks of hair', i.e. hidden sciences and mysteries. 
They are called 'plaited' in allusion to the various 
degrees of knowledge. 

'Soft', in respect of their graciously inclining to us. 
'In their joints and bends', in reference to the con- 
junction of real and phenomenal qualities. 

3. 'Trailing skirts', etc., because of the loftiness of 
their rank. 

'Clad in embroidered garments', etc., i.e. appearing 
in diverse beautiful shapes. 

4. 'Which from modesty', etc., referring to the 
Tradition, 'Do not bestow wisdom except on those who 
are worthy of it, lest ye do it a wrong', since contem- 
plation is not vouchsafed to everyone. 

'Old heirlooms', i.e. knowledge demonstrated by 
proofs derived from another. 


'New gifts', i.e. knowledge of which the proof is 
bestowed by God and occurs to one's own mind as the 
result of sound reflection. 

8. 'Covering their faces for shame', i.e. they are 
ashamed to reveal themselves to those whose hearts are 
generally occupied with something other than God, viz. 
the ordinary believers described in Kor. ix, 103. 

9. 'Teeth like pearls', i.e. the sciences of Divine 

10. 'Experienced in the wars', etc., i.e. able to dis- 
tinguish the real from the phenomenal in the simi- 
litudes presented to the eye. 

n. 'From their bosoms', i.e. from the Divine attri- 

'New moons', i.e. a manifestation in the horizon. 

'Which suffer no eclipse', i.e. they are not subject to 
any natural lust that veils them from the Divine Ideas. 

13. 'A slender girl', i.e. the single, subtle, and essen- 
tial knowledge of God. 

14. 'She established the harmony of union', i.e. this 
knowledge concentrated me upon myself and united me 
with my Lord. 

'Arab', i.e. it caused me to know myself from myself. 

'Foreign', i.e. it caused me to know myself from God, 
because the Divine knowledge is synthetic and does not 
admit of analysis except by means of comparison; and 
since comparison is impossible, therefore analysis is 
impossible; whence it follows that synthesis also is 
impossible, and I only use the latter term in order to 
convey to the reader's intelligence a meaning that is 
not to be apprehended save by immediate feeling and 
- 'Forget', i.e. his knowledge and himself. 

15. *A dazzling levin', i.e. a manifestation of the 
Essence in the state of beauty and joy. 


1 6. 'O my comrades': he means his understanding 
and his faith. 

17. Their camels', i.e. the aspirations which carry 
the sciences and subtle essences of man to their goal. 

1 8. 'A swift camel', i.e. an aspiration in himself. 

19. 'Whose rapid journeying', etc., i.e. this aspiration 
was connected with many aspects of plurality which 
disappeared in the course of its journey towards 

20. 'In the sandy tract of Hajir', i.e. a state which 
enabled me to discriminate between phenomena and 
prevented me from regarding anything except what this 
state revealed to me. 

'She-camels followed by young ones', i.e. original 
sciences from which other sciences are derived. 

21. 'A moon of awful mien', i.e. a manifestation of 
Divine majesty in the heart. 

23. 'His footprints', i.e. the evidences which He 
adduced as a clue to Himself. 

'The train of his robe', i.e. His uniqueness and in- 

'So that thou wouldst be bewildered', i.e. our 
knowledge of Him is ignorance and bewilderment and 
helplessness. He says that in order that gnostics may 
recognize the limits of their knowledge of God. 


1. Who will show me her of the dyed fingers? Who will 

show me her of the honeyed tongue? 

2. She is one of the girls with swelling breasts who 

guard their honour, tender, virgin, and beautiful. 

3. Full moons over branches: they fear no waning. 

4. In a garden of my body's country is a dove perched 

on a ban bough, 


5. Dying of desire, melting with passion, because that 

which befell me hath befallen her; 

6. Mourning for a mate, blaming Time, who shot her 

unerringly, as he shot me. 

7. Parted from a neighbour and far from a home! 

Alas, in my time of severance, for my time of 
union ! 

8. Who will bring me her who is pleased with my 

torment? I am helpless because of that with which 
she is pleased. 


i. 'Her of the dyed fingers': he means the pheno- 
menal power by which the Eternal power is hidden 
according to the doctrine of some scholastic theo- 
logians. He says, 'Who will impart to me the truth of 
this matter, so far as knowledge thereof is possible?' 
He wishes to know whether God manifests Himself 
therein or not. The author denies such manifestation, 
but some mystics and the Mu'tazilites allow it, while 
the Sufis among the Ash'arites leave the question 

4. 'A dove', etc., i.e. a spiritual Prophetic essence 
which appeared in the incommunicable self-subsistence. 
He refers to the belief of some Sufis that Man cannot be 
invested with the Divine Self-subsistence. 

5. 'Dying of desire', etc., with reference to Kor. iii, 
29, 'Follow me, that God may love you? and Kor. v, 59, 'He 
loves them and they love Him. 9 

6. 'A mate', i.e. the Universal Form. 

'Blaming Time,' because the forms belonging to the 
world of similitude are limited by Time in that 

7. 'A neighbour', i.e. a gnostic who became veiled 


from his Lord by his 'self ' after having subsisted by his 
Lord and for the sake of his Lord. 

*A home/ i.e. his natural constitution, whenever he 
returns to it. 


1. Oh, is there any way to the damsels bright and fair? 

And is there anyone who will show me their 
traces ? 

2. And can I halt at night beside the tents of the 

curving sand? And can I rest at noon in the shade 
of the arak trees ? 

3. The tongue of inward feeling spoke, informing me 

that she says, 'Wish for that which is attainable.' 

4. My love for thee is whole, O thou end of my hopes, 

and because of that love my heart is sick. 

5. Thou art exalted, a full moon rising over the heart, a 

moon that never sets after it hath risen. 

6. May I be thy ransom, O thou who art glorious in 

beauty and pride ! for thou hast no equal amongst 
the fair. 

7. Thy gardens are wet with dew and thy jpses are 

blooming, and thy beauty is passionately loved: 
it is welcome to all. 

8. Thy flowers are smiling and thy boughs are fresh: 

wherever they bend, the winds bend towards 

9. Thy grace is tempting and thy look piercing : armed 

with it the knight, affliction, rushes upon me. 


I. The damsels bright and fair', i.e. the knowledge 
derived from the manifestations of His Beautiful Name. 


2. 'The tents of the curving sand', i.e. the stations of 
Divine favour. 

The shade of the arak trees', i.e. contemplation of the 
pure and holy Presence. 

3. This station is gained only by striving and sincere 
application, not by wishing. Travel that thou mayst 

5. 'A moon that never sets', etc. : he points out that 
God never manifests Himself to anything and then 
becomes veiled from it afterwards. 

7. 'Thy gardens are wet with dew', i.e. all Thy 
creatures are replenished by the Divine qualities which 
are revealed to them. 

'Thy roses are blooming', in reference to a particular 
manifestation which destroys every blameworthy 

'It is welcome', i.e. it is loved for its essence. 

8. 'Thy flowers', etc., i.e. Thy knowledge is welcome 
to the heart. 

'Thy boughs', i.e. the spiritual influences which 
convey Thy knowledge. 


1. Tayba hath a gazelle from whose witching eye 

(glances like) the edge of a keen blade are 

2. And at 'Arafat I perceived what she desired and I 

was not patient, 

3. And on the night of Jam' we had union with her, 

such as is mentioned in the proverb. 

4. The girl's oath is false : do not confide in that which 


5. The wish I gained at Mina, would that it might 

continue to the last hour of my life ! 


6. In La' la* I was transported with love for her who 

displays to thee the splendour of the bright moon. 

7. She shot Rama and inclined to dalliance at as-Saba 

and removed the interdiction at al-Hajir. 

8. And she watched a lightning-gleam over Bariq 

with a glance swifter than a thought that passes 
in the mind. 

9. And the waters of al-Ghada were diminished by a 

blazing fire which passion kindled within his 

10. And she appeared at the ban tree of an-Naqa and 

chose (for her adornment) the choicest of its 
superb hidden pearls. 

11. And at Dhat al-Ada she turned backward in dread 

of the lurking lion. 

12. At Dhu Salam she surrendered my life-blood to her 

murderous languishing glance. 

13. She stood on guard at the guarded pasture and bent 

at the sand-bend, swayed by all-cancelling 
decisive resolution. 

14. And at* Alij she managed her affair (in such a way) 

that she might escape from the claw of the bird. 

15. Her Khawarnaq rends the sky and towers beyond 

the vision of the observer. 


I. 'Tayba (Medina) hath a gazelle', referring to a 
Muhammadan degree, i.e. a spiritual presence belong- 
ing to the station of Muhammad. 

3. *On the night of Jam' ' : he says, 'we abode in the 
station of proximity and He concentrated me upon 

'In the proverb', namely, c He did not salute until he 
bade farewell' i.e. they parted as soon as they met. 


4. He says, Tut no trust in an Attribute that is not 
self-subsistent and depends on One who may not 
always accomplish its desires.' 

7. 'She shot Rama,' i.e. she shot that which she was 
seeking, because she regarded the thing as being the 
opposite of what it was and of what she believed it to be. 

'And inclined to dalliance at as-Saba', i.e. she desired 
to manifest herself. 

8. 'A lightning-gleam', i.e. a locus of manifestation 
for the Essence. 

10. 'And chose', etc., i.e. she revealed herself in the 
most lovely shape. 

11. 'Dhat al-Ada', i.e. the place of illumination. 
'She turned backward', etc., i.e. she returned to her 

natural world for fear that that fierce light should 
consume her. 

12. Gnostics are annihilated by their vision of the 
Truth, but this does not happen to the vulgar, because 
they lack knowledge of themselves. 

13. 'The guarded pasture', i.e. the station of Divine 
glory. 'Bent', i.e. inclined with Divine mercy. This 
refers to her investing herself with Divine qualities. 

14. 'That she might escape', etc., i.e. she was un- 
willing to receive from the spirits, for she wished to 
receive only from God, by intuitive feeling, not by 
cognition. God sometimes bestows His gifts by the 
mediation of the exalted spirits, and sometimes im- 

15. 'Her Khawarnaq', i.e. the seat of her kingdom. 


i. Approach the dwelling of dear ones who have taken 
covenants may clouds of incessant rain pour 
upon it! 


2. And breathe the scent of the wind over against their 

land, in desire that the (sweet) airs may tell thee 
where they are. 

3. I know that they encamped at the ban tree of Idam, 

where the arar plants grow and the shih and the 


1. 'Dear ones', i.e. the exalted spirits. 
'Covenants,' i.e. the Divine covenants taken from the 

spirits of the prophets. 

'Clouds of incessant rain', i.e. knowledge descending 
upon them continuously. 

2. 'And breathe', etc., referring to the Tradition, 'I 
feel the breath of the Merciful from the quarter of 

3. 'At the ban tree of Idam', i.e. the station of 
Absolute purity at the end of the journey to God. 

'The arar plants', etc., i.e. sweet spiritual influences 
proceeding from lovely spiritual beings. 



Abraham, 77 

Active and passive, 23, 42-44 

Adam, 56-57, 77 

Affifi, A. E., 7, 22, 51 

Agent Intellect, 36 

Aleppo, 86, 87 

Alomohades, 16 

Analytical Psychology, 40 

Andalusia, 15 

Angels, 38, 59, 72, 77 

Archetypal Dreams, 40-42 

Aristotle and Aristotelian, 17, 19, 

20, 23, 30, 34, 36, 39, 42, 43 
Ash' antes, 18, 22, 29, 48 
Asia Minor, 16 
Atomic science, 20 
Atomists, Muslim, 19, 29 
Attributes, of God, 28, 30, 38, 40, 

52, 53. 73> 74> 83, 84 

Bcatic Vision, 80-8 1 
Beatrice, 87 
Beauty, 64-66, 87 
Body, and soul, 33-34 
Books of Ibn 'Arabi, 7, 16, 24-25, 

Carmathians, 22, 61 

Cause and effect, 42-44 

Christian doctrine, 15, 19, 25, 28, 


Constantinople, 15 
Cordova, 15 

Damascus, 16 
Dante, 26, 62, 77, 87 
David, 66 

Descartes, 19 

Desire, as opposite to free will, 49 

Determinists, 48 

Disharmony, impossible in realm 
of spirit, 43-44 

Dualism, 23, 24, 34, 42, 49, 56, 58 

Duality, of God and creatures, 31, 
32; of good and evil, 44; in the 
Qur'an, 23; no room for d., 24, 


Electricity, positive and evil quali- 
ties of, 45 

Encyclopaedists, Muslim, 23 

Enoch, 77 

Essence, divine, 28, 30-33, 38, 40, 
62, 64, 68, 70, 84 

Essence, of intelligence, 39; of the 
many, 31, 68; of prototypes, 31 ; 
pure, 52-53; as quality, 33; 
timeless and spaceless, 20 

Evil, 84; hides some good, 45; and 
human fate, 50; denotes lack of 
positive quality, 44; is not an 
objective reality, 44; necessary 
for perfection, 46; spiritually 
non-existent, 47 

Existence and non-existence, abso- 
lute, 48; due to laws, 30; neces- 
sary and potential, 30; rooted in 
substance, 20 

Fakhru'n-Nisa bint Rustam, 85 

Farabi, al, 7, 18, 65 

Fana, is awareness of the oneness of 
all, 52; is not 'passing away of 
self', 51-52; stages of, 52-53 


Fate, not pre-determined but self- 
determined, 50 

First Cause, 18, 20, 27 

First Intellect, 57 

Firuzabadi, Majdu '1-Din, 25 

Fleming, Sir Alexander, 45 

Free will, 24, 48-51; not identical 
with desire, 49; craves spiritual 
fulfilment, 49 

FutCuiat, al-, origins of, 76-78 

Ghazali, -al, 7, 18, 19, 29, 35, 60, 61 
God, not the cause of creation, 27, 
42; of Christianity, 58; becomes 
conscious of Himself through the 
Logos , 55; consciousness of, 3; 
and fana, 51-54; has no free will, 
50; finite and infinite, 27, 74; 
decrees both good and evil 
actions, 5; and heaven and hell, 
62; and human knowledge, 7; 
and inanimate objects, 38; 
immanent in both cause and 
effect, 43; incarnation of, 25, 58; 
and Jesus Christ, 56; knows Him- 
self perfectly in the Perfect Man, 
55, 71-75; synonymous with law, 
29; and love, 63-66, 87; and 
man's ability to differentiate, 47 ; 
and man's consciousness, 38; and 
man's unwareness of, 43, 78; 
moral commands of, 48; in- 
different to morality, 46-47; of 
Muslim philosophers, 17, 18; and 
the mystics, 32, 33, 51-54, 68, 
74-76, 80, 83; nonduality of, 23; 
as Perfect Light, 37, 79, 80, 81 ; 
and the prophets, 57, 80; ration- 
ality of, 38; unity of, 31, 69, 
82-84; universe of G. must 
contain imperfections, 45; will 
and thought of, 18; as stone, 39 

Good and evil, 44, 45, 47, 48, 50 
Guarded Table, synonym for Uni- 
versal Soul, 45 

Hallaj, -al, 22, 31, 64 

Heaven, 61-63, 81 

Hell, 61-63, 76 

Hierarchic system, 56, 59, 80 

Holy Spirit, 57 

Howell, James, 66 

Ibn Masarra, 22 
Ibn Rushd, 7, 19, 35 
Ibn SIna, 7, 18, 35, 63 
Ikhwan al-Safa, 23, 40 
Images (imaginings), 40, 41 
Inanimate objects, 38-39 
Inward eye, 37, 41 
Iraq, 15, 1 6 
Isma'ilians, 61 

Jesus Christ, 56-58, 77 
John, St, 77 
Joseph, 77 
Junayd, 75 

Jung, C. G., and archetypal dreams, 

Ka'ba, 28, 77, 78 
Kant, Immanuel, 19 
Kashani, 'Abdu '1-Razzaq, 74 
Kharraz, Abu, Sa*id, 69 

Kindi, -al, 35 

Knowledge, of destiny, 50; doctrine 
of> 34-3 8 78-79; through fana, 
54; of Muslim philosophers, 17- 
ao> 34-35; born with the soul, 35 

Language, precondition 
thought, 40 



Law, and evil, 46; synonym with 
God, 29, 38; hidden from man, 
50 ; inherent in all things, 38, 50, 

Leibniz, 19 

Leonardo da Vinci, 36 

Light, and Beatic Vision, 81; and 
rational soul, 37; real and 
painted, 20-2 1 ; as source of 
knowledge, 36, 79 

Lisbon, 16 

Logos, 17, 18; agent of God's con- 
sciousness, 55; conceptions of, in 
Christianity, 58; definitions of, 
60; doctrine of, 54-60; and Light, 
36; identical with Prophet Mu- 
hammad, 56-58; as Reality of 
Realities, 55; as Spirit of 
Muhammad, 31 

Love, cannot be described, 54; and 
God, 63-66; identical with God 
of Christianity, 58; and Tar- 
juman, 85-87 

Lull, Ramon, 26 

Manichaean, 15, 23 
Mary, Mother of Jesus, 56 
materia prima and materia secunda, 


Mecca, 16, 56, 77, 87 

Mercury, 77 

Meria, al, 22 

Miracles, 50 

Monism, 23 

Moorish, Caliphate, 15; Empire, 16 

Morality, and evil, 45 ; and free will, 
51 ; God's indifference to, 46-47; 
human attribute, 47 ; non-existent 
spiritually, 47; qualitative not 
quantitative, 47, 61 ; underlies 
man's relationship with God, 48; 
and world of appearance, 48 

Morocco, 1 6 

Moses, 77, 83 

Muhammad, 27, 83; and the 
Futufrat, 76-77; and the Perfect 
Man, 56; relation of to Adam, 56 

Muriasibi, -al, 61 

Murcia, 15 

Muslim philosophers, and creation, 
29; and free will, 48; and hier- 
archic system, 59; knowledge of, 
17-20, 34-35, and the Legos, 55; 
and a thing, 39 

Names, divine, 30, 31, 33, 38, 39, 

48, 60, 64, 71, 73 
Neo-platonic, 17, 18, 23, 59 
Nicholson, R. A., 7, 66, 68, 84 
Nizam, 85, 87 
Non-being, 39-40 
Nondualism (and nonduality), 23, 

24, 47, 62, 64 
Non-existence, 39-40; of forms in 

fana, 52, 53; synonym for evil, 


Opposites, exist only in our minds, 

43-44; united in God, 69 
Origen, 1 7 

Palacios, Miguel Asin, 7, 22, 26, 79 

Pantheism, 23, 27 

Paris, 15 

Penicillin, 45 

Perfection, must include imper- 
fection, 45-46; man's ability to 
recognize p., 47; of the world 
and Logos, 55 

Perfect Man, 55-60, 73 

Persia, 15 

Philo, 17,55 

Plato, i7,30,3i39 

Plotinus, 17, 23, 32, 55 


Predestination, 48-51 
Psychology, modern, 35 

Qushayri, al, 51 
Rembrandt, 65 

Seth, 73 

Seville, 15, x 6 

Shamsu'ddin, 86, 87 

Sha'rani, al, 25 

Sin, 46-47, 52-53 

Smith, Margaret, 78, 82 

Soul, human, 32, 33; and dreams, 
42; and heaven and hell, 62; 
and knowledge, 35; and light, 
37; subdivisions of, 33-34 

Spain, 15, 1 6 

Spirit, of Prophet Muhammad, 

Stoics, 23 

Style, of Ibn * Arabi, 24, 25, 85, 86 
Suyutf, Jalalu '1-DIn, 25 
Symbols, in dreams, 41-42; of hell, 

62; in mystical language, 54 
Syria, 15, 16 

Tayy, tribe of, 15 
Thing, the, 39-40 

Thought, cannot exist without 
language, 40 

Universal Reason, 36, 59 
Universal Soul, 33, 41, 42 
Universal Spirit, 18, 27 
Utrillo, Maurice, 65 

Zoroastrian, 15, 23 



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